THE US Council on Foreign Affairs interviewed Gerry Adams the other day in Washington (audio here). In a wide-ranging conversation which gave Adams plenty of time to put across his position, the Sinn Fein leader emphasised his need to keep republicanism united. But was there another ‘Moment of Madridness’ when he appeared to suggest that money seized by police investigating money laundering in the Irish Republic could eventually be traced back to the IRA?
In response to a point from Warren Hoge about the Garda investigation, Gerry Adams seemed to almost expect a connection to be made:
Well, the garda may be finding lots of money, and fair play to them. But there’s no connection back between that money thus far-thus far. Now we could wake up tomorrow morning and there could be the evidence. But thus far there is none.
Earlier, Adams set out his stall, explaining how he wants Sinn Fein to replace the IRA:
So I think this is at a failing point. That’s my very, very strong view. The difficulty with doing events like this is that in the eye of the storm you can’t send, and you can’t outline precisely what you want to do to bring the process into another phase because we are going through a phase. The whole process is in a transition. All society in Ireland is in transition, and that includes republicans. So you know, you may want to ask supplementaries, but I mean, my short take on this is, as I have said, one, Sinn Fein does want to bring about an end to the IRA; two, Sinn Fein, I think with others, will be successful in achieving that; and then, three, for Irish republicans, the alternative to the IRA has to be Sinn Fein. But we have to be the vehicle towards democracy and peace and justice in Ireland, and we are totally committed to democratic and peaceful means to both [inaudible] the peace process and then move beyond the peace process towards Irish unity.
However, when it’s suggested to Adams that this has been the situation for some time and he perhaps ought to move on it, he argues that it isn’t actually in Sinn Fein’s gift to enforce retirement on the IRA, and that Sinn Fein’s increasing vote is not related to the desire for the IRA to go away:
Well, you see, I think, you know, implicit or even explicit in your question is that it’s within the authority of Sinn Fein to bring this about, and it isn’t within the authority of Sinn Fein to bring this about.
But even if it isn’t possible for Sinn Fein to deliver a demobilised IRA, Adams argues that he himself is actually integral to efforts to do so:
If Sinn Fein-because I could stand up tomorrow and declare Sinn Fein new, new Sinn Fein. I could stand up tomorrow. Others have done that. In his time, [rebel leader and former Irish prime minister] Eamon De Valera did that. Did that get rid of the issue of physical force, republicanism? It didn’t. Other leaders, not as prominent as De Valera, in our time and over the last 20 or 30 years, have done exactly the same thing. Did that get rid of the issue of the IRA? No, it didn’t. And what we have to do is to take-and my service to this process, by the way, is in my ability to bring people with me. Once I cease to be able-or [Sinn Fein official] Martin McGuinness or the rest of our leadership-once we cease to be able to bring people with us, then we cease to be of any service to this overall process. So what we have to do is to bring people through this transition and out the other side, and leave republicanism in a situation where there aren’t elements within it who have some sense of hanging on or recommencing a war or recommencing conflict and so on.
So in seeking to have it both ways, Adams seems to be saying that he should not be excluded, but avoids having to take the responsibility for the IRA’s exit, which he believes should be dignified – a far cry from current circumstances. It’s worth remarking that Adams uses the word ‘alternative’ seven times, mostly in relation to the choice facing republicans who might have an attachment to the IRA – vote Sinn Fein or vote Sinn Fein.
Admitting that Sinn Fein had lost the initiative after the Northern Bank heist and the McCartney killing (only occasionally is it a “murder” for Sinn Fein), Adams said that he thought “we will sort out the policing issue”.
I was quite prepared to go to our party leadership just before the new year to say to them, “Let’s have a special conference and let’s sort this out.” Will we get that opportunity again? In my view, yes.
So there’s that carrot again – policing, the issue that resonates most with Americans – but I was wondering what Adams was getting at when he said:
“The Northern Bank robbery was totally and absolutely wrong, it should not have happened, and any other actions that one could conceive of, and all-all-because there is now an alternative. There’s now a way to move forward through entirely peaceable and democratic means.
This statement is very odd. Adams is suggesting that the Northern robbery should not have happened because there is a democratic alternative. But if Adams believes it wasn’t the IRA that carried out the robbery, why is he suggesting that a group with political objectives was responsible? Normal criminals don’t need a democratic alternative. Aside from Hoge’s intro (in which he was careful not to directly blame the IRA himself), no-one had mentioned the robbery apart from Adams.
Adams seems to be working on the same assuption that everyone else is.
I was amused when Adams then (deliberately?) mixed his metaphors:
I don’t want to spend my life having the same dog’s day or whatever the name is-groundhog day?-a million times.
Tagline: The robbery should have taken 10 minutes. 4 hours later, the bank was like a circus sideshow. 8 hours later, it was the hottest thing on live T.V. 12 hours later, it was all history. And it’s all true
Plot Outline: A man robs a bank to pay for his lover’s operation; it turns into a hostage situation and a media circus.
Who says Gerry Adams doesn’t have a sense of humour?
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