Adams addresses the faithful (and us lot)

After relatively few recent public pronouncements; Adams has delivered his speech at the Sinn Fein Ard Fheis. He is being reported as saying that he has concerns that power sharing could collapse. He has urged the DUP to stand up to those he believes are in its ranks but opposed to the current dispensation. Mick has indirectly mentioned the DUP annoyance below.Adams has also amusingly announced what looks to me like unionist engagement mark 2. Since Mr Adams seems to think that (according to the Belfast Telegraph) “many unionists now accept an end to British “engagement” in Ireland “may be no bad thing””. As such we are to have a “high powered taskforce” to “drive forward a new road map to a united Ireland”. Fortunately as guides on this road we have Gerry Kelly, MEP Bairbre de Brun, Kerry North TD Martin Ferris and the party’s representative in America, Rita O’Hare. Usefully unionist engagement Mk2 will also look for support across the world including to the “Irish Diaspora”. That is probably as well since I suspect Mk2 unionist engagement will be as popular with unionists as Mk 1 was. Also of course excellent cross community persons have been chosen. Who could be more popular with unionists than Gerry Kelly?

Turning back to Adams’s thesis about the DUP: personally I suspect Adams’s analysis is incorrect and it is unlikely that the DUP will collapse power sharing without very significant provocation. Adams may not understand that. However, much more likely is that he does in which case; this may be a way to rally his own troops and point out to them that many in the DUP are highly unhappy with what is going on. That would help with any dissent about the fact that SF seemed to believe that policing and justice had to and indeed would be devolved by May and now that is not going to happen. A sort of “look they are even more unhappy than you lot”. It will also help explain to SF’s grass roots why their leadership may not make a huge fuss when the deadline passes without being implemented. Unionist engagement mark 2 could also be seen in the same light; keeping the grass roots happy with more Mao-esque “Great Leaps Forward”.

This claim that the DUP could collapse Stormont may also be a coded warning to his friends in the IRA not to cause any further trouble at this time. A further IRA murder or such like might force the DUP’s hand and indeed actually make them (in my view against their will) collapse the executive.

Indeed I would suggest it is even possible that we could see a minor downgrading if the Army Council in the future. I very much doubt it will be the disbanding or anything similar of the “only legitimate government of Ireland” as is demanded by the DUP; that would be too much like a humiliation. Instead we could have some sort of reviewable indefinite suspension of activities. That might well be enough to make it much more difficult for the DUP to demand further concessions and would allow the governments to redouble their demands that the DUP agree to the devolution of policing and justice. It would also allow Adams to gain the limelight and pronounce himself a “statesman”, and allow SF to say that future IRA murders were nothing to do with them. They would not have gone away you know but the DUP’s fox could have; if not shot dead, been injured.

Any thoughts?

This author has not written a biography and will not be writing one.

  • Comrade Stalin


    Nice piece. I think the “DUP may collapse the executive” thing was, as you said, an attempt to keep people on their toes rather than sounding any serious threats up ahead. The DUP have invested far too much now to pull out.

    I don’t agree with the idea that saying this was a warning to the IRA not to kill anyone. The people who killed Paul Quinn don’t give a damn what Gerry Adams or anyone else up in Belfast thinks, and if they think it suits their interests to beat someone else to death, they will do it.

  • slug

    What struck me about Adams was how old-hat it was.

    This all seemed the same kind of stuff we are used to from the 1990s. But its tired. We are in a new situation. He seems to be stuck in the old one.

  • perci

    They murdered him across the border though; 10 people with IQ’s of 10 add up to 100, so they probably feel proud for taking the trouble to find a barn in the Republic.
    I get the feeling Adams feels a little spurned, over P&J;, like a lover expecting to stay over-night, but then being told to catch a cab home.

  • pfhl


    This all seemed the same kind of stuff we are used to from the 1990s. But its tired. We are in a new situation. He seems to be stuck in the old one.

    Was the DUP and Sinn fein sharing power in the 1990’s as this appears to be what he is talking about.


    You seem to be very against the idea of Sinn Fein trying to outreach to unionism or maybe just very sceptical. Surely it is a positive thing. Living in Ballymena for 18 years of my life. My only decent experience of unionism was the UUP mayor James Currie,who showed a large interest of the Catholic schools in the area and many in them schools held a good opinion of him. My attitude to unionism may have been much better if there had been more people like him. Instead we got the sash played outside Harryville and All Saints any time we went to mass on a Saturday night. We got a regular parade up william street (contains most of the pubs that nationalists would visit in the town) each week. Catholic school children got attacked for wearing their school uniform when walking through the tower center. Lets not forget 6pm Mass on saturday had to be cancelled for the sake of the safety of Mass goers. A catholic priest was forced to move out of harryville after being attacked. This was all before Sinn Fein got a seat in north antrim or ballymena and before Paddy Murray(tout) started to stir up tensions. Some outreach and understanding from unionism in Ballymena would have been welcomed by the Catholic population. It may even have prevented murder. This was not the case however younger generations followed their elders example and somebody was kicked to death.

    What is wrong with trying to engage in conversation? It is bound to be worth a try when the alternative is somebody else dead.

  • Twinbrook

    wheres the left wing of SF gone!

  • slug


    I guess I meant the whole issue of powersharing. Adams raised it as though it is an issue in the way it was in the 1990s. But I think it’s not.

    As for your experiences in Ballymena. I think what you say is totally fair comment. I speak as a Ballymenaman. I think though there are a lot of good people on both sides in Ballymena. Paul Symons for example. I hope that the good prevail over the bad. As you say it will take leadership that another tragic murder will not happen.

  • Chris Donnelly


    I think you’ve touched on something with your observations.

    It’s interesting how the very idea of ‘outreach’ has been so vociferously opposed by elements within unionism.

    Of course it can only be a good thing for republicans and nationalists to want to engage with unionists to understand differing perspectives- and, of course, a reciprocal form of engagement would also be very useful for the same reasons.

    Can you envisage a DUP conference in which a republican guest speaker wearing a republican emblem is applauded by delegates?

    There will always be those who will resist any form of outreach and attempt to belittle or demean it. Finding reasons to object is easy- were the DUP to launch a similar type of outreach programme to nationalists, would it not be as easy to object to any prominent DUPer fronting the initiative? ‘He did/ he said this or that so I’m not listening’ is an easy game to play, but it’ll not get us as a society very far.

    David Ervine earned much respect within the nationalist and republican community partially because he appeared capable of listening and understanding the collective opinions of his former adversaries whilst frequently asserting his own unionist opinions in a less than diplomatic manner. Should nationalists have refused to meet and discuss with Ervine because of his background or comments he made about loyalist violence? His ‘returning the serve’ observation about the Dublin bombings could’ve given nationalists an easy justification for shunning the PUP leader, but he continued to be welcomed into nationalist districts to speak and engage with nationalists.

    On the positive side, there will always be those from within any community who will take up the offer and begin the process of engagement, which is happening across the north. Ironically- though perhaps unsurprisingly, it is in the working-class interface areas that such engagements appear to be happening between former adversaries, in spite of the disdain for such initiatives emanating from the higher tier within political unionism.

    Nobody’s going to come out of such engagements experiencing a Pauline conversion from unionism to nationalism (or vice versa) but it helps the process of developing mutual understanding.

    Such dialogues can only be helpful.

  • dublinsinnfeinsupporter

    Sinn Féin deserve to be praised for their outreach work to unionists. Alone among the parties, Sinn Féin have a post of Unionist Engagement Officer. The Unionist Outreach Offier has recently unveiled the Charter For Unionist Engagement [follow link] which sets out the agenda as it is being taken forward. Unionists turned up to the launch and listened to the speeches which accompanied the launch.

  • Garibaldy

    Dublin supporter,

    Some parties actually work right across the community. And so don;t need a unionist outreach officer.

  • doctor

    “Indeed I would suggest it is even possible that we could see a minor downgrading if the Army Council in the future. I very much doubt it will be the disbanding or anything similar of the “only legitimate government of Ireland” as is demanded by the DUP; that would be too much like a humiliation. Instead we could have some sort of reviewable indefinite suspension of activities.”

    I’ve never understood the focus on disbanding the army council. Namely, proving that a handful of people meeting in private is an official army council meeting rather than some other gathering of senior republicans. They can give out a press statement saying the council is disbanded then meet the next day under some new guise.

    And even though it continues to get a lot of play by certain journalists, I’m not sure how dogmatic mainstream republicanism is about the army council being the real Irish government. They probably think they’re better patriots, but I’m not sure how literal anyone has taken it since 1986 apart from Republican Sinn Fein.

    I do think that Sinn Fein has taken a step in the right direction with the “unionist engagement”. As others have pointed out, it’s hardly had a fair chance to prove itself if people are going to dig for reasons to oppose it in the first place. At least it’s more of an effort than any unionist party has put forth to convince nationalists of the benefits of the union.

  • Belfast Gonzo

    Aside from the production of a leaflet last year, what form has the ‘unionist engagement’ taken?

    Far more noticeable has been Fianna Fail’s possitive engagement with unionists.

  • doctor

    It takes two to tango. There can’t be much of an engagement if unionists rubbish it the second it was announced. Fianna Fail has had more success because a section of unionism seems to have adopted the “enemy of my enemy is my friend” mantra, especially since the Irish elections last May. I don’t think it is necessarily a bad thing from a nationalist standpoint if some unionists are so driven by hate towards Sinn Fein that they end up getting extra chummy with the natural party of the Republic’s government.

  • 0b101010

    I’m sure a good proportion of Unionists understand that the slim majority maintaining British rule is going to wither away over time, but it appears that Irish Republicans take it for granted that rule from Dublin is the obvious and desirable alternative to rule from London.

    Unification is not a concept that sells itself and there are surely going to be many, like myself, wondering what tangible benefits could possibly come from surrendering our local sovereignty to any another state.

    Outreach and engagement has to develop far beyond handshakes and promises not to wipe each other off the face of the Earth. Neither side has made a particularly strong case for someone else holding Northern Ireland’s leash.

  • Dk

    ob10101010: “there are surely going to be many, like myself, wondering what tangible benefits could possibly come from surrendering our local sovereignty to any another state.”

    Add me to your list. It seems to me that if one bunch don’t want London rule, and another bunch don’t want Dublin rule, can’t we just have Belfast rule?

    Fears/hopes of domination by one group over the other are the main stumbling block, but we have a template for power sharing, and demographic changes will erode the prods and taigs anyway (increasing intermarriage and immigration plus lowering church attendance).

    On top of that, for many years London has been trying to get rid of NI and Dublin has shown zero interest in integrating NI. We may have no alternative but to take responsibility for ourselves. Now there’s a radical thought.

  • Red Diesel

    Abolition of the Army Council may provide a handy shorthand and point of focus for unionist concerns, but in terms of continued Provo community controlit is completely irrelevant. It did not approve or clear the beating of Paul Quinn, and the strong possibility that one council member was involved in the murder, at least to the extent of providing the forensic clean-up squad, does not alter that reality. In fact, the Army Council was never in the business of clearing individual operations. It is the governing body in the policy-making sense, and has never had operational control of Army activity. That is the role of the GHQ Operations Director operating through Operations Officers and OCs at brigade/battalion level. The real problem is the continued existence of these area and local command structures. The point is not whether the people who killed Paul Quinn are all active, paid-up, card-carrying members of the Provisional IRA, it is that whatever their status, they had access to and approval of those command structures. That is what gives them local impunity, not any theoretical allegiance to the Army Council. It is also the mechanism that permits them to exercise a continued degree of community control, which in turn means that they can deliver electorally and in its turn guaranteed them political cover from Sinn Fein. both locally and nationally.

  • fair_deal

    I must admit when I heard Adams’s claims re the DUP opposition my response was ‘Huh!’. My bemusement has continued as I can’t quite fathom why he came up with this pile of dung. It appears to me to make little internal or external political sense.

    At a stretch he might be trying to create a narrative for why the DUP won’t agree to the devolution of policing and justice “DUP split stops devolution of P&J;” but even that doesn’t work as it has been clear from day 1 it wasn’t a runner nor even a deadline (as Pete has repeatedly and in detail highlighted on here). However simply saying so with nothing to back it up won’t lead to the narrative being adopted by the media nor would it convince the SF grassroots.

    If he does genuinely believe it then I think their Unionist engagement mustn’t be working if that is the tripe they are being fed.