His latest outing has drawn the noisy flak of some people whose concern about the past has always been expressed silently anytime the violent role of British state forces and prison staff has fallen under the strobe. The heavy thump of applause for denunciations of the IRA quickly assumes the sound of one hand clapping when it comes the turn of the British to feature in Rogues' Gallery.
It is difficult to tell with Adams whether he plans controversy or is caught in its web. Designed or not, he is unable to plead not wittingly M'Lord to Miriam or anybody else about the consequences of his schemes and scams, whereby he invariably manages to be the centre of attention without being the centre of attention.
With multiple motives driving his actions, including quirky behaviour, allowing for multiple outcomes beneficial to him, he knows in advance the likely outcome of his public posturing and utterances, and calculates accordingly. Eoin Ó Broin alluded to this in a public rebuke of his former leader over his appearance in the Christmas video skit, which some have claimed was a mockery of their loved ones whose lives were snuffed out by the Provisional IRA during the Northern conflict. Ó Broin, calling on his former boss to apologise, also pointedly referred to the:
hurt or pain or trauma that republicans, including some people I have worked with directly and very closely for many years, have caused.
Ó Broin's point: Adams could have foreseen the fall out. But not any more than Ó Broin could have predicted Adams behaving precisely as he did. It is in his nature.
Other party figures have expressed the view that Adams has nothing to apologise for including Matt Carthy and David Cullinane, himself forced to walk the apology plank some time back for shouting Up the Ra, while party leader Mary Lou McDonald has thus far remained silent.
Ó Broin has form for refusing to publicly kowtow to Adams and is not therefore an indication of what way the current leadership cat will jump. I do not subscribe to the Matt Treacy view that Ó Broin is "annoyed over the Adams video because it potentially interferes with ... becoming ministers. Sin é." The impulse toward political careerism is arguably much stronger among those who have backed Adams on the issue than it is evident in Ó Broin, who at least seems to believe in something. Nevertheless, McDonald is astute enough to discern that the party's phenomenal rise in popularity cannot be dissociated from the public perception that it has left Adams behind it. In her view, best for him to stay on the margins in the past rather than be part of the present.
As for the video, a friend sent it to me seemingly more in a gesture of ridicule than an outpouring of exasperation. The one comment I remember making was that Adams is a bigger bore than Covid. The video did not seem mocking. If anything, there was a touch of the self-deprecatory to it all, more a parody of his claims never to have been in the IRA, than insensitivity towards victims.
As such, there should be no need for Adams to apologise to victims' groups. To insist that he should is to trivialise the meaning of apology in political discourse. Times have moved on from when Gerry Adams knocking on your door one dark December evening was a cause for grave concern.
⏩ Follow on Twitter @AnthonyMcIntyre.