Gerry Adams: “this can be too easily twisted into a view that since everyone was to blame, nobody was to blame…”

The Sinn Féin president, Gerry Adams, TD, has been blaming others, again, for the failure to agree a comprehensive package on, among other issues, dealing with the past – in particular, a failure to agree on the holistic approach that could be said to characterise the mechanisms contained in the Haass proposals.  But he had some interesting comments to make last weekend on a specific topic from the past elsewhere – [Not here? - Ed]  No, there – that could help inform further discussion.

Here’s what Adams had to say about dealing with that particular historical issue

For some commentators, the responsibility and blame for this is being laid at the door of society.

“I have been trying to understand this. In this version of events everybody is to blame and everybody is at fault.

“However, everybody is not to blame. The victims are not to blame. It is as if the virtual imprisonment of unmarried girls and women and the theft of their children were a natural outworking of Irish society in that period of our history.

“However, that is too simplistic a picture. It seeks benignly or inadvertently to excuse the decisions that were taken by the elites in the State and church.

As Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin told the Dáil this week, this can be too easily twisted into a view that since everyone was to blame, nobody was to blame. That is not good enough. [added emphasis throughout]

Indeed.  However, the version of events that Adams tries to understand criticises there is precisely the same version of events that his party has sought to establish, more generally, here.

As the man himself said in the long-forgotten 2007 Sinn Féin Charter for Unionist Outreach

Sinn Féin recognises that all our people have suffered greatly. Much hurt exists within our society. I acknowledge that republicans have contributed to this hurt. We have all contributed to this hurt. [added emphasis]

 

And when everyone is to blame?  [Nobody is! - Ed].

Of course, holding the elites to account for the decisions they took here would have to include holding to account the elites within paramilitary groups.

And among those elites, would be the elites within the paramilitary group of which Gerry Adams was never a member – and the decisions they took.

But, baby steps…

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  • Zeno

    Sinn Féin recognises that all our people have suffered greatly. Much hurt exists within our society. I acknowledge that republicans have contributed to this hurt. We have all contributed to this hurt.

    We? Not me. I’m not guilty.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    GA: “I have been trying to understand this. In this version of events everybody is to blame and everybody is at fault.”

    “However, everybody is not to blame. The victims are not to blame. It is as if the virtual imprisonment of unmarried girls and women and the theft of their children were a natural outworking of Irish society in that period of our history.”

    Gerry posing as the champion of young girls and women abused by the state and institutions? Is he imagining everyone has entirely forgotten how he acts in practice, within his family? What about Áine? Is this abuse something that is perhaps acceptable a private rather than a public action?

    I have every confidence that a strata of the younger Sein Féin members care deeply and sincerely about the residual abuse of women in Irish society, and the deeply ingrained misogyny that fuels this, but Gerry is so utterly, utterly compromised on this issue that as long as he continues to be the the public face of SF he renders their espousal of this all important issue simply a mockery, No thinking (or feeling) person can take seriously any words of concern that come from his mouth.

  • Seamuscamp

    Pete B
    I realise that there is nothing more enjoyable than Adams bashing. But, really, this article is feeble. To say “We contribute” is not the same as “We’re to blame” even in the NI Wonderland that you inhabit. There’s enough in the real world to beat GA over the head with without inventing spurious digs. As Seaan says, GA is compromised by his known inaction without any need for imagined action.

  • Politico68

    In the minds of some people Gerry Adams comments on this issue are worthless as are his comments on other issues. That’s fine, we have come to accept this position and the people who espouse it are perfectly entitled to it. But what Pete and others like him seem to forget is that the half a million people who vote for the Shinners do actually want to hear what he has to say on these, and other issues. Subjective dismissal of his views are fine, but it doesn’t offer anything by way of resolution, nor does it solve whatever the specific problem is and worse, it does zero to help those that are suffering.

  • Pete Baker

    We’re still dealing with the past…

    Apparently.

  • Politico68

    …so let the parties get on with finding agreement on how to deal with the past and lets try not to ignore today’s victims because of our obsessions with selected individuals.

  • BarneyT

    Far too much is twisted. Lets look at the problems in IRAQ? Will the UK\US take collective responsibility for the very predictable instability that the regime change and invasion provoked? Will they now internalise the problems and shift the blame?
    In NI we need to look at the big events…and main trigger…in the same way we need to look at the impact the 2003 war had. The states involved need to be held to the light and placed under the scope. Thats the start and end, not the smaller players, that exist on all sides

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Politico68, the issue is an issue of trust. Adams supported his brother rather than the victim. This is not simply a subjective impression, it is incontrovertible fact. What is subjective is, perhaps, my decision to refuse to believe that Adams is sincere when he affirms the rights of strangers. But his behaviour towards Áine must mean that to any person with the least sensitivity, he cannot speak with authority on the suffering of women. In this context such hypocrisy is no longer simply a shield against once stronger opponents, but is used to abuse and mislead his own supporters.

    Now I find the use of this issue by Adam’s opponents simply for political capitol also highly offensive, using as it does highly charged issues within a human tragedy cynically for personal political gain. But I still feel deeply that Adams should recognise the damage his continued presence at the head of Sinn Féin does to the entire concept of a flourishing Irish identity and should make way for someone who is not so compromised.

    It is misleading to say that “the half a million people who vote for the Shinners” do so simply because “actually want to hear what he has to say on these, and other issues.” This is a “mandate” fallacy which claims that people will unfailingly support everything a person does because they have voted for him, as their representative he is entirely empowered as their voice in the manner of a Divine Right king. Not true! People vote for Sinn Féin for any number of reasons, and are not solely voting for Adams. Sometimes they are voting, as we all should, for some person they know and trust. As I’ve said above, “I have every confidence that a strata of the younger Sein Féin members care deeply and sincerely about the residual abuse of women in Irish society, and the deeply ingrained misogyny that fuels this”, and this is because I’ve spoken with these younger members of Sinn Féin whose clear sincerity I trust on this issue.

    And, as the history of Ireland shows, fudges will never bring the resolution of suffering to those who are abused. The abused especially need to be able to trust their advocates, and how can anyone who has personally suffered any injustice and abuse trust anyone who has so publicaly and openly placed the abuser’s rights well before the rights of the abused.

    I know that no good politician will ever answer a direct question, but you are still not answering the simple question as to what you may think the behaviour of Adams to Áine actually means in this context. You are implying, if not stating that it is an irrelevance. How any commentator actually feels about this issue is the critical point in any assessment of their authority to speak about the abuse of women in Ireland in any context. To think otherwise is similar to thinking that Stalin or Himmler had a valuable opinions to offer on the practice of genocide.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    In the light on my current Cárta Buí I should make it very clear that my use of “abuse” in the sentence: “In this context such hypocrisy is no longer simply a shield against once stronger opponents, but is used to abuse and mislead his own supporters,” is used in a very general sense, clearly implying, I hope, simply an abuse of trust, and in no way implies that Adams himself would abuse supporters in the more particular sense of sexual abuse. I only noticed this entirely unintended ambiguity after I’d posted the comment and if I’d had a re-write button to use I might have changed the word for a word less loaded in this context.

    Adams culpability is in his failure to make what I feel to be the morally correct decision in would always have been an impossibly difficult choice between his brother and his niece. The point I’m attempting to make is that this factor in his political record has serious implications for his credibility as an advocate against the abuse of women.

  • Jagdip

    Fair play to Peter for highlighting an inconsistency in GA/SF’s position on victims.

    But, the mother and baby homes victims in the South (and North?) are differentiated. There is no competition for victimhood in this instance. There are no “sides”. When you get competition, as there is in the Northern Ireland civil war, that’s when you have issues of hierarchy, narratives, equality and fairness emerging.

    If GA is a hyprocrite for adopting a different position on the two sets of victims, then we’re all hypocrites for regarding Gerry Conlon’s death last week as tragic but softening our cough on his wrongful imprisonment. The latter tragedy suffers from competition with a desire to blame the IRA, British police, judiciary and establishment.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Jagdip, the experience of being victimised in any way will always be a direct, personal experience. There is no league table of suffering, I agree “no competition for victimhood.” The issue is that for ANY WOMAN suffering ANY form of sexual or social victimisation, Adams espousal of advocacy on their behalf is a gross insult in the light of his previous record with a case concerning a member of his family.

    Caeser’s wife must be above suspicion, and anyone speaking against the ill treatment women, particularly any man, must not have any past record of condoning any form of abuse. This is a very, very sensitive issue and I am not discounting how very difficult it is when a family is torn by loyalties but the insensitivity of Adams fronting the party on abuse issues is all too glaringly obvious. There are others in Sinn Féin, such as Rosie McCurley just to just pick someone at random, with a fine record on these issues and having every moral right to act as unimpeachable advocates on such things. Having Adams speak on these themes displays an insensitivity entirely compatible with the gross insensitivity of Robinson’s comments on racism and on Pastor McConnell’s views.

  • IrelandNorth

    It matters less whether one is not a very good Catholic (or Protestant) than whether they are a reasonably good Christian. Politicos who seek to exploit miscarriages of justice to gain political advantage over opposition members they feel democratically challenged by would be better served taking the beam out of their own eyes as to why their party sat on their hands for much of the Troubles and did precious little. Judge not lest you be judged is a powerful moral precept, whether one subscribes to any given theology or not. Would that we all embraced it.