Browne: it will all come right when Gerry and Martin leave…

Vincent Browne made one of his occasional visits to the Northern Ireland question in his Irish Times column on Wednesday. As is often the case, he furnishes us with a few gems from his stint of ‘North-watching’ from an earlier time in his career.

Internment had been mooted for weeks before the actual introduction, and Boal had promised that if it was introduced he would denounce it as an unacceptable breach of civil liberties. On the way to Buster MacShane’s gym that morning he said he would prevail on Ian Paisley to join in his denunciation of internment.

We met Paisley in the cafe attached to the gym. By the way, it was Boal who was a member of the gym, not Paisley. And for over an hour or so Boal persuaded Paisley to condemn internment. Paisley agreed, reluctantly. They issued a joint statement.

Paisley spent over a year trying to get off that hook. Some months later Boal talked Paisley into making favourable noises about a united Ireland, or at least friendly relations with the South. He spent even more time getting off that hook.

These exposed Paisley’s “right” flank – vulnerable to being undermined by more extreme unionists. It was and, I suspect, remains his primary preoccupation – being outflanked by others to his right wing. And whenever he perceives that threat, he retreats back into hardline unionism.

This flip-flopping motif was a distinct theme picked out an early biography of Ian Paisley by Ed Moloney and Andy Pollak. Although it has to be said that the threat ‘from the right’ has all but been squeezed dry. The last substantial ‘independent’ anti agreement unionists were disposed of in 2003, along with the hardliners of the Ulster Unionist Party.

There are tensions within the party, but these seem to revolve more around the specific quality of a final deal, and, perhaps, some jockeying for position in the post Paisley era. Though given the quality of the deal that SF is being given, the penny may yet drop that the current scope for substantial movement is likely to be small.

But the most intriguing detail in Browne’s column is his speculation that this deal is not going to work out now, but that it might once Adams and McGuinness leave the political stage in a few years time:

…the reality is that Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness are now liabilities in terms of unionist acceptance of the peace deal. Jim Allister said recently it was a generational thing and maybe he is right. There is reason to believe that both Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness wish to leave the scene anyway. Neither is interested in position or power in themselves.

Gerry Adams will be 59 next October; Martin McGuinness will be 57 in May. If either or both believed peace would be advanced by their departure from the scene, I believe they would go. The problem is that their departure might weaken fatally the peace faction within the republican movement.

But, one way or another, it may be that there will be no deal now and not for quite some time. And if then there is a new leadership in Sinn Féin things could be very different. Although the failure of the present initiative is disappointing, the transformation of the situation is so startling that we have to welcome all that has been achieved so far.

It will all come right in a few years, but probably after Gerry Adams, Martin McGuinness and Ian Paisley are gone from the scene.

Does Vincent know something the rest of us don’t?

  • Pat Mc Larnon

    It will make interesting reading when it is listed who are the unionist liabilities in terms of nationalist acceptance of the peace deal.

    I don’t beleive there is reason to believe that either Adams or Mc Guinness wish to leave the scene.

  • Well, for the record, I see no public or private indication of that either Pat.

  • tell us another

    Neither is interested in position or power in themselves.

    hahahahahahahahaha, hahaha, haha, oh my!

  • Way Icit

    Pat “I don’t beleive there is reason to believe that either Adams or Mc Guinness wish to leave the scene.”

    Rather convenient though for someone to hint that you are thinking that way – may take the pressure off a little from certain quarters. You then do what the PM has done for years – stay on and on and on!

  • Neither has a natural successor at the moment. They might be able to go at the end of the first term of a functioning Assembly, but it would be destabilising for them to go now.

  • wiseup

    if i remember another one of browne’s ‘gems’, as you call them, was his inisistence that the provos didn’t do the northern bank – hardly the most inspiring track record i would have thought!

  • IMHO, his gems lie in what he remembers from the early days. Too few have the detail he can recall. As for his analysis, well, I’ve given my response above. His view on the headline issue here is interesting primarily because he runs a weekly column from Adams in the Village. Nowhere I have suggested that it be read as definative.

  • wiseup

    its ‘definitive’, not ‘definative’ – being able to spell properly would be an asset if you continue to insist on editing this blog!

  • ronanodonnell

    Brown is spot on .

    As a ‘west of the bann’ protestant I know a united irelnd is on the way – but NEVER with the sectarian Adams and Mcguinness in the saddle. never.

    Fianna Fail or sdlp or a coalition anyday but never with the provos.

  • The Pedant

    Excuse me, wiseup, but I resent your attempt to expropriate my function as pedant. It is clear that you are deficient in this regard, otherwise you might have called one’s attention to Mick’s transposition of “Nowhere” and “I” in the sentence to which you allude.

    Mick, Vincent Browne has indeed produced gems of intellligent commentary and keen insight. He is a joy to read.

  • George

    perhaps you could provide evidence that the IRA did the Northern Bank job.

    At the moment, the venerable Mr. Browne has yet to be proved wrong. Who would have thought that back in the day when Vinnie made that statement.

    Go on, inspire me to the contrary. Show it still doesn’t hold.

  • wiseup


  • George

    is that it? All the inspiration and evidence you have to offer is such an empty slogan?

    I’ll continue reading what Vincent has to write then if that’s alright with you.

    At least he has the good manners and, dare I say it, ability to put forward a decent case if he feels strongly about something.

  • wiseup

    what it really has to do with is this! [Removed – mod]

  • Deccas

    All George asked for was some evidence. Would I be correct in saying that as you preferred to launch a personal attack in your response that you have none to offer…?

  • Henry94


    I would also be interested in any evidence you have to support you claim. We have discussed this many times and there is no evidence whatsoever to link the IRA to the Northern Bank raid.

    For most journalists this is not a problem because they are happy to parrot the “everybody knows” line. If one journalist bothers to look for evidence then he is doing his job and the rest are not.

  • Nic

    Well, for what it’s worth (and I know it’s not much), my impression/assessment of Adams based on his public persona and the combined commentary from people close to the Peace Process is that he is very much interested in personal gain – not necessarily material, more the glory game, but nonetheless very concerned about his personal image.
    So sorry about this, but I find Vincent Browne hard to take seriously as an analyst – he may have a forensic memory for details and a legally-trained brain for spotting the loopholes in particular initiaitives, but on most of the “big picture” stuff, he’s been totally unreliable (IMHO).

    However, allowing that even Browne may be right sometimes, we could speculate that Adams, smart fellow that he is, he has realised where the glass ceiling is for “his sort” and, at 59, done the math and realised that his bolt has been shot.
    Maybe it’s better to go soon on your own terms, while you’re still a “statesman” in some media eyes, rather than wait to be pushed – either from without (British-US-Irish governments not taking your phone calls any more) or within (the split underway in the violent republican movement may be more serious than anyone wants to admit).

    So all in all, I agree with Mick, the historical minutiae are what make the article interesting, rather than any commentary or analysis (speculation) on Browne’s part.


  • Nic

    To follow-up on my last post re: the seriousness of the split, I just came across this gem in today’s Sunday Indo., hidden right at the bottom of an article about FF doing a deal with SF after the next Irish general election:
    “Meanwhile, there is now a growing belief that thefinances of senior IRA figures such as Thomas ‘Slab’ Murphy will not now be investigated.

    This follows the surprise announcement last week that the North’s Assets Recovery Agency is to be abolished, suspected to be part of an arrangement to secure Sinn Fein/IRA support for policing in the North.”

    You just can’t be up to them, can you?