A different take on the post-conflict career of Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams, guerilla-turned-politician, from the journalist Michael Brendan Dougherty writing in The Week:
“If only more militant Irish nationalists had the decency to die. Get shot in the back by a Paddy more extreme, like Michael Collins did, and someday Liam Neeson could be playing you. Get executed by the Brits like James Connolly, and your aphorisms will be in Irish graffiti forever. Starve yourself to death like Bobby Sands did in the H-Block, and history will talk about how your vote totals for MP compare favourably to Thatcher’s. Legends all.
Gerry Adams still lives, and no one will forgive him for it. Adams commanded killers, like Collins. He invokes the stern, almost utopian principles of 1916, which Connelly helped invent. And like Sands, he was tortured for his political aspirations by Northern Irish authorities.
We know what to do with killers who die: judge them on the merits of their cause. We know what to do with killers who win outright: celebrate them as national heroes. But people who put down the gun and muddle on in the ambiguous world of politics? We’re not sure what to do with them.”
“When Ryan Turbidy, the host of Ireland’s premier late night talk show, tried to gain the moral high ground on Adams in 2010, informing Adams that people think he’s terrible and that the bloodshed was avoidable, something odd happened. Adams switched out of his careful, passive voice. Instead of referring broadly to what “the Republican movement” did, he adopted the personal pronoun: “I was born into a state that didn’t want me.”
That state didn’t allow his parents to vote. Their generation endured bombs thrown into their houses. Popular politicians, including men of the cloth, compared Adams and his kind to vermin, systematically denied them jobs, and let rioters burn down their houses without consequence. It was a state that arrested men and watched them starve themselves, for merely exercising what we would consider basic rights in America. When I think of that, the remarkable thing about Gerry Adams isn’t that he did unjustifiable, evil things, or that he evades telling the truth about it now. It’s that he ever stopped at all.
Adams has to answer to God and to everyone for Jean McConville. But his partners in the peace process haven’t disclosed everything either, while Adams stands in front of the cameras and take the abuse for his history and his evasions. Perhaps others should do the same.”