On the reconciliation of Two Monsters…

As noted yesterday, Gerry Adams benevolent reading of Ian Paisley’s career on Comment is Free was remarkable in its civility. Simon Jenkins is unimpressed. He recalls his early days as a reporter encountering a younger Paisley in Northern Ireland:

The man was a monster, a fanatic, a hangover from the middle ages. I remember wondering how on earth Britain had allowed Ulster’s constitution so to fester as to have this man roaming the woods and hills of Ulster. One thing Britain does not do well is postcolonial partition. It creates a fertile breeding ground for the likes of Paisley, and his antagonist, Adams.

Speed up some years:

These men eventually eliminated moderate leaders so they could claim moderation for themselves. They smashed power-sharing so they could share power between themselves. They now pretend that change could not have been faster because the people would not let them. The climate of public opinion in the province was not ready.

That is a lie. These men were the climate, and it was one of systematic bigotry and violence. They chose their methods and terrorised all who opposed them. While religious sectarianism elsewhere in Europe was on the wane, lovers of Northern Ireland had to watch in despair as it drifted to ever greater separatism – territorially, politically and psychologically.

The Good Friday agreement did not end this polarisation. It is best described as a moment in a long process, when Tony Blair cleared from the battlefield the moderate clutter of Hume and Trimble so that Adams and Paisley could see the whites of each other’s eyes.

Shades of David McKee’s Two Monsters children’s story. But Jenkins concludes:

A cliche of conflict studies holds that only leaders of extremist factions can deliver closure. Hence Kenyatta of Kenya, Mugabe of Zimbabwe and Begin of Israel. Hence the “feelers” put out to Moqtada al-Sadr in Iraq, the Taliban in Afghanistan and Hamas in Gaza. Eventually we must all “sit down with the men of violence”. To that thesis history can only reply, sometimes yes and sometimes no. When there is a future to be rebuilt, bygones must be bygones. But it is one thing to forgive, quite another to forget.

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  • RepublicanStones

    ‘A cliche of conflict studies holds that only leaders of extremist factions can deliver closure. Hence Kenyatta of Kenya, Mugabe of Zimbabwe and Begin of Israel.’

    if by ‘closure’ he means continued violence and mayhem, then that is a resounding yes. (Kenya just sneaking in there recently, unfortunately)

  • Dewi

    Not usually that fond of Jenkins but he’s got it about right here. A hangover from the middle ages indeed.
    (Moloney’s Paisley arrived this morning btw…loks a little long!)

  • McKelvey

    It seems to me that the subtext of this article is meant to absolve successive British governments of their responsibility in fostering and continuing this conflict and then to frame the troubles as some sort of personal feud between Paisley and Adams.

    Secondly, David Trimble is/was hardly a “moderate”, the primary difference between Paisley’s and Trimble’s politics, from what I can tell, is the language in which their politics are/were packaged.
    It is truly a disgraceful article.

  • PaddyReilly

    Sorry Dewi but Simon Jenkins is an idiot. He may feel himself superior to Ian Paisley and Gerry Adams, but the fact is that Paisley had the backing of over 30% of NI’s voters and Adams over 26%. Those are the electoral results and that is what we have to work with, unless you are prepared to admit that there is no such place as Northern Ireland.

    I don’t know what Jenkins proposes: perhaps gassing 56% of Northern Ireland’s population and replacing them by Simon Jenkins clones? If only the Guardian could send this man to Iraq or somewhere where he can wander round on the back of a donkey lecturing the Sunni and Shia on loving each other.

  • It was Sammy Mc Nally what done it

    There is something deeply disqueiting about an Englishman apparently unaware of his country’s role it getting us to where we are in Non Iron, pontificating about the leaders of the 2 rival political camps. It probably doesn’t help his case that due to the deferential nature of the society he grew up in he tends to speak with an accent and a manner which suggests he would fit neatly into a Woodhouseian novel.

  • joeCanuck

    Sammy says: “There is something deeply disqueiting about an Englishman apparently unaware of his country’s role it getting us to where we are in Non Iron”.

    Simon says: “I remember wondering how on earth Britain had allowed Ulster’s constitution so to fester as to have this man roaming the woods and hills of Ulster.”.

  • It was Sammy Mc Nally what done it

    There is something deeply disqueiting about an Englishman apparently aware of his country’s role it getting us to where we are in Non Iron, pontificating about the leaders of the 2 rival political camps. It probably doesn’t help his case that due to the deferential nature of the society he grew up in he tends to speak with an accent and a manner which suggests he would fit neatly into a Woodhouseian novel.

    JoeCanuck: The facts can always be bent to fit the arguement

  • joeCanuck

    Hehehe

  • PaddyReilly

    Adams and his collaborator, Martin McGuinness, destroyed Hume’s SDLP

    Total rubbish. SF has, whether permanently or temporarily we cannot say, managed to obtain more votes than the SDLP. However the SDLP still hold firm in Hume’s Derry constitutency and elsewhere. SF’s campaign was nothing like Paisley’s attack on O’Neill, Faulkner, Trimble.

    What caused this relative decline in the popularity of the SDLP was not Gerry Adams parading up and down shouting whatever is the Republican equivalent of ‘Lundy’, but the sheer ineffectiveness of the SDLP in obtaining the slightest bit of acknowledgement within the six county entity. For this we can blame the Ulster Workers Strike as much as anything. It was Paisley and his like who pushed the SDLP into second position.

  • Is the nationality of the columnist relevant or has the man / ball rule gone out the window? It is a strong article in some respects deapite sweeping generalisations about some of the more distant history. I’ve blogged on those in more detail myself.

  • Aye. Just like it was unionists who made nationalists join the IRA. The old republican reluctance to take responsibility for anything.

  • It was Sammy Mc Nally what done it

    I orignally thought from the title of this post that EOS was going to play both John Hayes and Tony Buckley against the Taffs.

  • kensei

    Just like it was unionists who made nationalists join the IRA. The old republican reluctance to take responsibility for anything.

    Trite, and stupid. No one escapes personal responsibility. But Unionism did create conditions whereby people would view that option in a more favourable light. And they can’t escape responsibility for that either, no matter how much you want to spin.

  • “They chose their methods and terrorised all who opposed them.”

    Not like me to be controversial but I think their methods were different and that only one of them has blood on his hands. Readers can decide which.

  • joeCanuck

    If you shake hands with someone with blood on theirs, don’t you get some blood on your own?

  • willowfield

    PaddyReilly

    Sorry Dewi but Simon Jenkins is an idiot. He may feel himself superior to Ian Paisley and Gerry Adams, but the fact is that Paisley had the backing of over 30% of NI’s voters and Adams over 26%. Those are the electoral results and that is what we have to work with, unless you are prepared to admit that there is no such place as Northern Ireland.

    I think his point is that Paisley and Adams were leaders of public opinion and not followers (or as well as being followers). They led their supporters down certain paths; and were irresponsible in doing so. They had the facility to choose other, more responsible and constructive paths, but elected not to. Obviously, the electorate chose of its own free will to vote for Paisley and Adams, and for that they are responsible, but, as leaders, Paisley and Adams had a public responsibility not to adopt irresponsible positions: they could instead have led their supporters towards more responsible positions.

    Sammy McNally

    There is something deeply disqueiting about an Englishman apparently unaware of his country’s role it getting us to where we are in Non Iron, pontificating about the leaders of the 2 rival political camps.

    Er, if you read the blog, it refers to Jenkins acknowledging Britain’s inability to deal with a “postcolonial” situation.

  • Dewi

    Quite a nice thread below the Guardian piece also.
    I’ve was always a bit of a determinist about hitoric development – untill Walesa in Gdansk showed how individual leadership has a role in determining events. Paisley from 1958 onwards personally instrumental in creating a situation where violence was inevitable.
    If Paisley wasn’t there could things have been different? Discuss….
    ..and Sammy – with that bloke Donnacha in your second row u don’t need any more monsters. My niece starts crying when she sees him on the tele!

  • Leny

    “Not like me to be controversial but I think their methods were different and that only one of them has blood on his hands. Readers can decide which. “

    Surely you jest. Paisley certainly has blood on his hands. Anyone who has ever voted for the DUP cannot moan about them sharing power with terrorists when Paisley, Robinson, McRea associated with loyalist paras when it suited them. When comparing Paisley and Adams you are, as Churchill might say “merely haggling over price.”

  • willowfield

    I think there is a wide gulf between Adams and Paisley in terms of the degree to which they “associated with” terrorists.

    Adams, for example, actually was a terrorist and led a terrorist movement!

  • steve

    Willow
    proof?

    As far as I know there exists no proof that Adams was ever a PIra

    And the difference3 betwwen paisley and Marty?

    Paisley lacked the bollocks to face anyone over a gun so he chose to kill with words and direct actions of others

    Marty was more pragmatic

  • well the article pretty well sums up my general viewpoint. In brief – what were the last 30 years all about?? If only these 2 ******s and their ****ing parties and their ****ing supporters had all “seen the light” years ago. Well at least my son shouldnt have to go through it all so i should at least be thankful that the year of the Chuckle Brothers has hopefully bedded down the Agreement. We will see.

  • PaddyReilly

    Aye. Just like it was unionists who made nationalists join the IRA. The old republican reluctance to take responsibility for anything.

    I’m not certain if this is aimed at me, but if so I can oblige by taking responsibility here. There always was a small Republican Clubs vote, but it has increased exponentially of late. Why this has happened I have attempted to explain: others may come up with different theories: you may wish to posit an increase in wickedness among the Nationalist people.

    But as for the vote in general, surely people can vote for who they damn well like? Each voter, moreover, is responsible for his own vote, not for anyone else’s.

    And I was never registered to vote in Northern Ireland when Sinn Féin was standing.

  • circles

    I think we maybe all should take a breath now that Dr No is retiring to his Bond villain island in the caribean (or perhaps to Rathlin).
    In some of the posts on this thread some are more than willing to throw down their responsibilites. Suddenly it was ALL Paisley and Adams fault – those two filthy miscreants.
    The fact is we lived and do still live in a deeply disfunctional society. Both Paisley and Adams are as much products of this as anybody else – symptoms of a deeper illness.
    This is where for me Jenkins head disappears up his own backside. He gives way too much power and influence to two individuals and ignores the psychotic nature of society.

  • PaddyReilly

    They led their supporters down certain paths; and were irresponsible in doing so. They had the facility to choose other, more responsible and constructive paths, but elected not to.

    But Jenkins goes on to say As anyone who walks the Falls will know, the Real IRA is still a menace to Adams. Consequently Gerry Adams, at least, does not have the freedom to manoeuvre that you ascribe to him. He has performed more than one miracle of reconcilation: if he had taken the path recommended him by Simon Jenkins he would have not been able to. Think of Gerry Fitt in the House of Lords, another moaning Minnie parroting the line, sure if everyone was as wonderful as me, there wouldn’t be all this trouble. A great help.

  • RepublicanStones

    ‘One thing Britain does not do well is postcolonial partition.’

    Sums it up perfectly. Of course we will have some posters who will argue the ‘It wasn’t a colony’ line, which is head in the sand stuff.
    But the simple fact remains, that it is only when the two extremes of any conflict settle differences, that success can begin to flourish. You make peace with your enemies, not your friends. I am sceptical as to whether this has occurred in Ireland yet.

  • It was Sammy Mc Nally what done it

    Willows me old mucker,

    “Er, if you read the blog, it refers to Jenkins acknowledging Britain’s inability to deal with a “postcolonial” situation”

    Er, if you read my second ( corrected ) post you will see that I replaced the words “apparently unaware” with “apparently aware”.

    Details my good man, details.

  • It was Sammy Mc Nally what done it

    Dewi,

    re. Monsters

    the boy Buckely is about 28 – looks like he has been kept in a shed and fed lots of nasty stuff and now seeks revenge on opposition rugby teams.

    I really hope he gets a good run off the bench.

  • willowfield

    PaddyReilly

    But as for the vote in general, surely people can vote for who they damn well like? Each voter, moreover, is responsible for his own vote, not for anyone else’s.

    I already said that.

    I also said, though, that political leaders are responsible for where they choose to lead their followers.

    It’s a two-way thing.

    But Jenkins goes on to say As anyone who walks the Falls will know, the Real IRA is still a menace to Adams. Consequently Gerry Adams, at least, does not have the freedom to manoeuvre that you ascribe to him.

    Adams is a competent and rational human being: he could have chosen to oppose violence rather than to support it; to work to reconciliation rather than to consolidate power based on division.

    The same applies to everyone else involved in political leadership at whatever level.

    The same applies to the “Real IRA”: it is their choice to pursue their path. It is their choice to put forward to people an irresponsible path, just as it was Adams’ choice to do the same in the recent past.

    Those even more extreme than Adams are even more to blame for being irresponsible: but that does not absolve Adams of his irresponsible choices.

    He has performed more than one miracle of reconcilation: if he had taken the path recommended him by Simon Jenkins he would have not been able to. Think of Gerry Fitt in the House of Lords, another moaning Minnie parroting the line, sure if everyone was as wonderful as me, there wouldn’t be all this trouble. A great help.

    But Fitt is essentially right. If Adams and his cohorts hadn’t constructed a violent politico-terrorist movement, then Fitt and other reasonable people would have continued to have been elected, reconciliation sooner and more easily achieved, and fewer people murdered.

    The same applies in respect of unionism. If Paisley hadn’t constructed a sectarian alarmist opposition movement, then more moderate unionists would have been elected, etc.

  • Prince Eoghan

    >>I think their methods were different and that only one of them has blood on his hands. Readers can decide which.
    Posted by The Watchman on Mar 07, 2008 @ 01:43 PM
    #

    If you shake hands with someone with blood on theirs, don’t you get some blood on your own?
    Posted by joeCanuck on Mar 07, 2008 @ 01:46 PM<

  • willowfield

    “Adams has never came across as a bigot.”

    Well, that’s all right, then.

    You can murder 2,000 people, but don’t ever “come across as a bigot”.

    Adams is a bigot because he believes his own views are more valid than anyone else’s and that he and those who think like him had the right to inflict murder and mayhem on behalf of a people who didn’t want them to.

  • willowfield

    “A bigot is a prejudiced person who is intolerant of opinions, lifestyles, or identities differing from his or her own.”

    Adams was so intolerant of opinions differing from his own that he believed that it was right to ignore their views and seek to impose his own by force.

    Adams was so intolerant of opinions differing from his own that he believed that it was right for such people to be murdered

  • circles

    Willow are you honestly claiming that Gerry Adams has murdered 2000 people?

  • willowfield

    No.

    But he was the leader in a movement that did, he supported those actions, and still justifies them.

    Not a nice man.

  • McKelvey

    “But Fitt is essentially right. If Adams and his cohorts hadn’t constructed a violent politico-terrorist movement, then Fitt and other reasonable people would have continued to have been elected, reconciliation sooner and more easily achieved, and fewer people murdered.”

    This assumes that either unionist party, throughout most of the Troubles, were interested in sharing power with the SDLP, which clearly they weren’t.

  • willowfield

    McKelvey – the criticism applies equally to the other side as should be clear from all my contributions.

    Incidentally, the UUP was interested in sharing power and did so in 1974. Also, the VUPP split over the issue in 1975-76, with the majority under Craig favouring power-sharing.

  • PaddyReilly

    Fitt and other reasonable people would have continued to have been elected, reconciliation sooner and more easily achieved, and fewer people murdered.

    The same applies in respect of unionism. If Paisley hadn’t constructed a sectarian alarmist opposition movement, then more moderate unionists would have been elected, etc.

    Yes and if we had all spent the whole year in bed playing “Give Peace a chance” on the record-player none of this could have happened. Voting for the National Law party and a daily ration of yogic flying would also solve everybody’s problems. Equally if all the Catholics had sensibly emigrated to the Free State (or Protestants to Scotland).

    You seem to think that everyone in NI’s history has contrived to snatch failure from the jaws of success. It’s all total nonsense. The 6 county entity was doomed to failure because it lacked sufficient consensus to make it a viable society.

    The electoral facts of NI are that there are four major sections of the electorate, which vote for the DUP, SF, UUP and SDLP in order of descent. Politics is about trying to find some sort of common ground. Fantasing that everything would be wonderful if the first two entities didn’t exist is not of any use to anyone.

  • willowfield

    I’m not fantasising: nor am I saying it is of any use.

    I’m merely observing that political movements in Northern Ireland chose to adopt extreme positions. They did not need to adopt those positions: it was their choice.

    I then observe that the consequence of those positions was political failure and violence.

    I conclude that those political leaders and movements therefore bear considerable responsibility for the failure and the violence.

    In this respect, Simon Jenkins is not as far away from the truth as you have suggested.

    You may think there is little use in making such observations, but it seems that you do not disagree with them?

  • PaddyReilly

    These men eventually eliminated moderate leaders so they could claim moderation for themselves. They smashed power-sharing so they could share power between themselves.

    It’s these lines I object to: crap journalism on the part of Jenkins. Paisley indeed campaigned for the removal of O’Neill, Chichester-Clarke, Faulkner, Trimble, whoever. He opposed power-sharing from the beginning. But Gerry Adams? When did he attack Gerry Fitt for attempting to share power? When did he demand direct rule from Westminster? Do me a favour.

    WILLOW: Care to join me for yogic flying?

  • RepublicanStones

    ‘Adams is a bigot because he believes his own views are more valid than anyone else’s’

    Willow, thanks for the laugh.

  • Dread Cthulhu

    Prince Eoghan: “Am i the only one shocked that Gerry Adams could ever be compared to Paisley in such a manner, is there anyone who could? Adams has never came across as a bigot. ”

    Mayhap, but is that as a result of being a tolerant individual, or simply because he’s someone better at hiding his biases and bigotry than Dr. Rev. No?

    Willowfield: “Adams is a bigot because he believes his own views are more valid than anyone else’s and that he and those who think like him had the right to inflict murder and mayhem on behalf of a people who didn’t want them to. ”

    Believing his own views are more valid than those around him does not make him a bigot. Indeed, willowfield, you’ve never been shy about doing the same — what with you believing your views are more valid that some others — and I suspect you’d bristle at the accusation of bigotry simply for holding true to your beliefs and opinions.

    Now, thinking he has the right to murder and mayhem based on those views may make him a psychopath, a sociopath or might indicate some other psychological pathology, but, again, does not make him a bigot, per se.

    Yes, I’m pedantic.

  • While my back was turned, you’ve brought this thread down to the usual bickering and partisan point-scoring.

    I think you’ve missed the essential point, and the reason why I, personally, welcomed and applauded Simon Jenkins’s piece.

    Focus on the thrust, not the detail.

    There has been far too much of the nil nisi bonum de mortuis stuff over Paisley. Someone had to say what Jenkins did: stuff the sentimentality, sod the crocodile tears, damn the encomiums. The whole shower, both sides, are poseurs and posture-merchants, Falstaff’s buckram men. Jenkins said that, meant that, and was right on both accounts:

    Each got what he wanted and could seek comfort in old age, lubricated with exorbitant amounts of British money.

  • Prince Eoghan

    >>Mayhap, but is that as a result of being a tolerant individual, or simply because he’s someone better at hiding his biases and bigotry than Dr. Rev. No?< >Yes, I’m pedantic.<

  • McKelvey

    (Willowfield) the criticism applies equally to the other side as should be clear from all my contributions.
    Incidentally, the UUP was interested in sharing power and did so in 1974. Also, the VUPP split over the issue in 1975-76, with the majority under Craig favouring power-sharing.

    The UUP split in 1974 over power sharing (with the SDLP!), with a minority under Brian Faulkner supporting it and then forming a new unionist party – UPNI.
    The VUPP did not split over power sharing, it split over the much tamer idea of voluntary coalition – its leadership largely supported it and its membership did not.
    The UUP had never endorsed power sharing before 1991 and the DUP simply never has.
    Neither nationalist party has opposed power sharing per se.

  • McKelvey

    (Willowfield) Adams was so intolerant of opinions differing from his own that he believed that it was right for such people to be murdered

    Hence the mass executions of Sinn Fein members who vote against the leadership’s motions at successive Ard Fheis over the last 30 odd years …

  • willowfield

    Believing his own views are more valid than those around him does not make him a bigot.

    It does when he thinks it gives him and those who think like him the right to murder and terrorise in order to impose their views on everyone else.

    Now, thinking he has the right to murder and mayhem based on those views may make him a psychopath, a sociopath or might indicate some other psychological pathology, but, again, does not make him a bigot, per se.

    It does: he was so intolerant and dismissive of others’ views, that he thought he had a right to impose his own by force.

    Hence the mass executions of Sinn Fein members who vote against the leadership’s motions at successive Ard Fheis over the last 30 odd years …

    Try the murders of British people, unionists and those deemed to be “legitimate targets” for daring to protect society against Adams’ “republican” murder gangs.

  • McKelvey

    Hence the mass executions of Sinn Fein members who vote against the leadership’s motions at successive Ard Fheis over the last 30 odd years …

    (Willowfield) Try the murders of British people, unionists and those deemed to be “legitimate targets” for daring to protect society against Adams’ “republican” murder gangs.

    Was Republican violence directed at people for their opinions or how they put their opinions into practice? And were those people protecting society per se or unionist society?

  • willowfield

    Was Republican violence directed at people for their opinions or how they put their opinions into practice?

    Both, and also against people of British nationality. And I note the subtext of your question that it is somehow less wrong to murder someone for how he “puts his opinion into practice” (as you put it) than to murder him for holding an opinion. I think such reasoning is obnoxious.

    And even if violence was directed “only” at those who “put their opinion into practice” in a way not to the liking of the Provisional movement, that remains a clear example of Provisional intolerance: so intolerant and dismissive of others’ views that they thought they had a right to impose their own by force.

    And were those people protecting society per se or unionist society?

    Society per se.