“The worst thing this party could do would be to circle the wagons..”

Brian’s comments notwithstanding, the appropriate response to the latest leg of the Gerry Adams World Tour is one of laughter [Of our children? – Ed] The alternative is to despair. Adams’ newly professed open-mindedness betrays the absence of any viable strategy towards achieving his aspirations, whilst calling on action from the British and Irish governments indicates a dependency on the kind of top-down Process™ which may have delivered Sinn Féin’s support for the police, along with the DUP’s renewed participation in the Northern Ireland administration, but it left the “face of bigotry, sectarianism and intolerance” on our streets. In his Guardian slot Adams declares

The single most important issue facing the people of Ireland and Britain is the achievement of Irish unity and the construction of a new relationship between Ireland and Britain based on equality. Economic crises, however severe, will come and go. Governments will come and go, but for more centuries than any of us care to contemplate Britain’s involvement in Ireland has been the source of conflict; partition, discord and division; and great hurt between the people of these islands.

Which is easy for the International Representative for west Belfast to say. And no doubt it represents a Sinn Féin article of faith. But, in comparison, governments have more immediate concerns, as do Irish farmers.. Indeed, the Northern Ireland administration also has the economy as the priority in its Programme for Government. Do the members of Sinn Féin within that administration?

None of which is to suggest that there isn’t a way forward. Nor that there isn’t a priority.

The way forward lies not in political grandstanding, or world tours, but in the more delicate, humdrum even, process of civilisation here.

Bertie Ahern seemed to get that. And Brian Cowen appears to also. Why, apparently, don’t some of our local politicians? Is it simply an aversion to risking their traditionally accrued political capital?

The other point to note regarding Adams’ latest speech is how it fits, or doesn’t fit, into the conversation Sinn Féin’s Toiréasa Ferris professed to want. Are we expected to endure a continuation of a policy of pretence..

Sooner or later political reality may intervene – what Adams forgot to say was that political parties come and go, as do politicians. And then what?

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  • chris

    you truly are a 100% tool !

    please some 1 stop him

  • dunreavynomore

    Very hard to stop Gerry, Chris, because he knows quite well when he is bullshitting but carries on anyhow. Ahem… you were referring to mr Adams,weren’t you?

  • elvis parker

    ‘The single most important issue facing the people of Ireland and Britain is the achievement of Irish unity’
    Try telling that to the umemployed Gerry you prat!

  • Brian Walker

    Pete,
    I was doing a bit of old fashioned reporting here, more or less taking it as it comes and letting the event speak for itself without too much interpretation. Not entirely devoid of conclusions, though. I think it’s important to open minded sometimes to avoid being taken entirely by surprise if there’s a new departure. I also support the idea of tryint to develop a proper dialogue with SF, the second largest party in a political arrangement I basically support, with all its flaws. The way some are talking, you’d think SF were on the brink of collapse. I’m sure that’s not a mistake you’d make. Adams seems to be counting on the “logic” of unity to win out somehow, consistent with his determinist mindset. This lack of an avowed clear strategy I thought, was new and interesting.

  • Pete Baker

    Brian

    My apologies if my initial comment in this post came across as criticism. It was not intended as such.

    And some old-fashioned reporting is always welcome – that’s why I included a link to your post.

    Your point on where his supposed political allies are is very valid – even more so if, as Mark Devenport speculates, we see a “Well hung” parliament.

    But the “determinist mindset” is clearly in evidence in this, latest, Adams project. As is the absence of any viable strategy to achieve the objective.

    “New and interesting”? What strategy could he produce, in the circumstances, with such a mindset?

    The only one that makes any sense is the process of civilisation. But that’s neither determinist enough, nor quick enough, for his purposes.

    In short, I was attempting to place this latest project in the wider political environment, including Toiréasa Ferris’ contibution, and allow the reader to assess the value of it in that context.

  • foreign correspondent

    I´m not a fan of Sinn Fein myself, but Mr. Baker´s heavy sarcasm, always directed at SF as opposed to any other political party, gets a bit wearying sometimes.
    I mean, Gerry Adams is callying for Irish unity – what a shocker. Heck, I think I´ve just been infected with politicosarcasmoidosis!

  • RepublicanStones

    ‘but it left the “face of bigotry, sectarianism and intolerance” on our streets.’

    Grizzly’s world tour was responsible for violence over the 12th?

  • Pete Baker

    RS

    Read the full sentence again.

  • RepublicanStones

    I have Pete, it contains 3 commas.

  • Obsession – by Pete Baker (no matter how much of a hypocritical sh*t Adams undoubtedly is)

  • RepublicanStones

    ‘Obsession – by Pete Baker’

    Is that on sale at Boots?

  • Brian Walker

    Pete,
    No apology needed. I was just explaining what I was trying to do, probably unnecessarily.

  • Pete Baker

    Thanks Brian.

    “probably unnecessarily” ;o)

    RS

    You missed the rest of Pat’s comment.

    Pat

    “(no matter how much of a hypocritical sh*t Adams undoubtedly is)”

    You might well think that; I couldn’t possibly comment.

    Obviously.

  • kensei

    Pete

    Adams’ newly professed open-mindedness betrays the absence of any viable strategy towards achieving his aspirations,

    Fuck. Me.

    You are criticising SF for admitting that they they need an open mind and new ideas (ie: they don’t have a currently viable strategy) by saying they don’t have a currently viable strategy? How can you not realise the stupidity of this as you type it?

    Is your hatred of SF do much so that it blinds to such obvious and stupid contradiction? WTF?

    whilst calling on action from the British and Irish governments indicates a dependency on the kind of top-down Process™ which may have delivered Sinn Féin’s support for the police, along with the DUP’s renewed participation in the Northern Ireland administration, but it left the “face of bigotry, sectarianism and intolerance” on our streets.

    Actually, he didn’t call on action from the British Government. He stating the three challenges were getting the British Government to…, getting the Irish Government to…. engaging with Unionism. He didn’t call for those people to take action but rather recognised that it was incumbent on Republicans to try and bring a change in attitudes in the three main stakeholders. That is a subtle but hugely bloody important distinction in thinking from what has gone before – as Mick would put it, previously it was someone else’s problem. Perhaps it will lead in top down directions, perhaps not. But it isn’t proscriptive.Apparently your tedious wordplay (cf “planter and gael”) only extends as far as you want to see it. This could perhaps be forgiven, if he didn’t ask the bloody question himself:

    To achieve all of this requires those of us who share these goals to find ways in which we can work together. Is it possible to put in place a formal structured broad front approach to campaign for a united Ireland? Or would it be better to opt for an informal, organic and popular movement based on core principles?

    That’s a matter for the dialogue we are beginning.

    The way forward lies not in political grandstanding, or world tours, but in the more delicate, humdrum even, process of civilisation here.

    So, to be clear, what you mean by “the way forward” is completely different to what Adams considers “the way forward” and not actually anything to do with SF’s political goals? Great. Next time, try contextualising it to be relevant to what they want.

    Bertie Ahern seemed to get that. And Brian Cowen appears to also. Why, apparently, don’t some of our local politicians? Is it simply an aversion to risking their traditionally accrued political capital?

    Bertie Ahern and Brian Cowan don’t have to live under British rule. Things gets somewhat sharper when you are on the end of it and I doubt either of those men would have the same attitude with Republican constituencies in SF’s boots.

    A United Ireland will not come about without someone giving a sense of urgency and impetus, and some good old fashion leadership from the top. See the SNP in Scotland. Bottom up changes are important, an absolutely utterly vital piece. And yup, SF are cack on that. But it isn’t the whole story, and can never be so. As SF is the incumbent in Nationalism they have to at least think across the whole spectrum.

    1/10.

  • borderline

    In my view, a United Ireland will only come about when it has lost it’s potency to upset Unionists.

    Unionists are against a United Ireland. Therefore there will not be a United Ireland as we understand it now.

    If however, there is a merging of identities in NI, with the forging of new positions and identities, the old labels will disappear into history like Whigs, Ribbonmen, and Roundheads.

    As Ireland is an island, with people of similar stock and religion inhabiting it, who marry each other when given the chance, it is more or less inevitible that the merging will take place on an all-island basis.

    So this may be perceived as an evolution to a United Ireland.

    But it will not be what a United Ireland looks like from where we are now.

    Therefore I believe that any plan or strategy to get to a United Ireland is pointless and will only delay it anyway, whatever ‘it’ is when we get there, if we get there.

  • Kevster

    I guess it is my age, but I’m turning 53 next month and have seen so many cartographic changes in Europe that I don’t find the word “never” to be as useful as I did in my misspent youth.

    In my opinion, if Unionist people can see advantages in being part of an Irish union of some sort, it will happen rather quickly if they don’t feel their rights are in jeopardy.

    I would say that London and Dublin have reached a fairly decent understanding, at least a considerable progression from just 25 years ago. I find it almost impossible to predict the map 25 years from now.

  • HeadTheBall

    Kensei,

    “In my view, a United Ireland will only come about when it has lost it’s potency to upset Unionists.”

    The point was Borderline’s (12:51, above) not mine, but it’s close to my own thinking. Do you not consider that your own “sense of urgency” might not be part of the problem? A sense of urgency on the nationalist side looks like undue pressure from the Unionist perspective.
    Pete’s “process of civilization” (while much broader in its implications) includes all of us getting a bit more laid back about both the stakes and the timetable. An astute commentator recently suggested that a UI will come about when “it does not matter any more” (because of EU links, etc). I would paraphrase that as: A UI will come about when nobody feels too strongly about it any more.

  • elvis parker

    Kensei: “Bertie Ahern and Brian Cowan don’t have to live under British rule”
    Yup at the moment they are probably really regretting it

  • cynic

    ‘The single most important issue facing the people of Ireland and Britain is the achievement of Irish unity’

    …..errr thats not what they said at the elections Gerry. Down South, wasn’t it more like “so long Mary-Lou…..”

    But you know Gerry and Gordon Brown have so much in Common these days.

    Both have achieved the top in their Party but now where do they go?

    They know that their parties are riddled with worn out incompetents, their policies are threadbare, the electorate have caught on and increasingly see them as irrelevant. They have both retreated into a bunker mentality where they construct an alternative reality in which everything is wonderful / green and the alleviation of poverty / a united ireland / world peace are all just on the horizon thanks to their immense political skills and leadershp.

    Is there a Political equivalent of The Priory we can book them into for a reality check?

  • kensei

    The point was Borderline’s (12:51, above) not mine, but it’s close to my own thinking. Do you not consider that your own “sense of urgency” might not be part of the problem? A sense of urgency on the nationalist side looks like undue pressure from the Unionist perspective.

    No, I don’t. Hypothetically if there was a genuine bottom up movement it would produce a structures to lead it. This things do not come about on their own.

    Bombing is undue pressure. Working political processes to make the case for your political views is what the system is for. Unionists can keep saying no, and Nationalist parties can keep trying to sharpen their case.

    Pete’s “process of civilization” (while much broader in its implications) includes all of us getting a bit more laid back about both the stakes and the timetable.

    If every man woman and dog here decides to become happy Unionists, I will still argue as passionate as I can for Republcian principles I believe in. Because I believe it is important, and I believe Ireland would be better with the border gone. I do not see it a good idea to be “laid back” on things I believe strongly in.

    That does not preclude me from having opinion or ideas in other areas, related or not. Political parties should be expected to do many things at once.

    An astute commentator recently suggested that a UI will come about when “it does not matter any more” (because of EU links, etc). I would paraphrase that as: A UI will come about when nobody feels too strongly about it any more.

    To paraphrase John Paul II “We do not want an Ireland that costs us nothing”.

    Do you think this is simply about a line on a map, or something?

    elvis

    Yup at the moment they are probably really regretting it

    Which is a spectacular misreading of the republican mindset.

  • RepublicanStones

    ‘You missed the rest of Pat’s comment.’

    I understood you were quoting Alistair Finlay. And then snipped it nicely and inserted it at the end of one of your own sentences.

  • HeadTheBall

    “Do you think this is simply about a line on a map, or something?”

    Well, Kensei, to an extent I do. At least, getting rid of that line on the map would, I believe, open up a whole new politics in Ireland. I am anxious that we do not screw it up by rushing our fences. We need to create a climate of security in which debate can replace mutual paranoia. This does not mean that anyone, least of all yourself, need water down their convictions in the pursuit of some false consensus.

  • fin

    “In my view, a United Ireland will only come about when it has lost it’s potency to upset Unionists.

    Unionists are against a United Ireland. Therefore there will not be a United Ireland as we understand it now.”

    No, a united Ireland will come about when it gets 50% +1 in a border poll, so it will come about when a % of unionists are happy with it.

    That % will be young unionists with no baggage, the kind who the DUP, TUV, UUP, UCUNF or Alliance cannot get out to vote for their parties.

    Not long ago a SF MEP topped the poll, the world didn’t end, SF may weel be the largest party at Stormont after the next election, the world won’t end then either.

    It is becoming increasingly difficult for unionist politicans to frighten a sizable % of their community into rejecting a united Ireland or to aid the fight in ‘smashing Sinn Fein’

  • kensei

    HeadTheBall

    Well, Kensei, to an extent I do. At least, getting rid of that line on the map would, I believe, open up a whole new politics in Ireland.

    The importance is what the removal that the line means and not the line itself. I believe over the ling term it would lead not simply to a better politics but a more just, more prosperous, more free Ireland. The removal of the line simply symbolises that.

    I am anxious that we do not screw it up by rushing our fences. We need to create a climate of security in which debate can replace mutual paranoia. This does not mean that anyone, least of all yourself, need water down their convictions in the pursuit of some false consensus.

    The problem is that what Pete really wants is for SF to become like the Southern parties: so content with the status quo that unity only becomes a rhetorical flourish and little else. . It is easier when you have complete control of your own destiny but not impossible within the current Northern arrangements. That cannot be afforded.

    I have no problem with patience, or going slow, or building a little piece of the true republic within where we live. But if republicans aren’t thinking in an All ireland context, or give no consideration or urgency to their ultimate goal then what exactly are they for? They will be replaced, at least in part, by those that do give due concern to these things.

    I think Northern Nationalism has a hell of a lot to learn from the SNP in Scotland. Salmond isn’t perfect, but he’s done a lot of clever things and generally strikes a good tone. The Unionist parties in comparison often look shrill.

    If I could briefly recast Adams three challenges, they would be:

    1. Building a base and relationships in Britain that will blunt, however slightly, the reflexive Unionism of the British Government. Given the Tories have moved here, the history of bad British Government intervention here and getting towards the end of peace process influence, this strikes me as small but immportant. Some might suggest ending absentionism as a part of it, but it causes too many ideological issues, I think.

    2. There has been a tendency in recent years that the benefits to reunification run all one way and that the South would basiclaly be doing us a favour in taking us. This is fairly insidious and unrepublican. It’s easy enough to counter in border areas but a wider case needs reinforced. If something is desirable and possible, the Government should probably take a look at the practicalities of it.

    3. To present some ideas of a Unietd Ireland that might appeal to current Unionists, even if emotion (fairly overrides it). there is a sens ethat a United Ireland = the end of Ulsters Protestants witht he associated apocalyptic langauges and dire warningds of DOOOOOM. Simply removing that fear even if you don’t convince many would eb a step in the right direction.

    I don’t know if SF can do this. I suspect they’ll have trouble for a while to come. But I’m glad they are at least talkign about things like this which is more than the SDLP amange.

  • dunreavynomore

    “Not long ago a SF MEP topped the poll, the world didn’t end, SF may weel be the largest party at Stormont after the next election, the world won’t end then either.” Fin

    Exactly, Fin, the world didn’t end but neither did it change. It’s ‘canny’ of you to drop the old Ulster Scots ‘weel’ in ther; Must be part of the outreach programme.

  • Framer

    Why do we need a united Ireland if we are all in Europe?

    The EU came into being to respect existing borders and provide something bigger.

    You won’t find Germany seeking the return of Alsace.

    Didn’t John Hume teach us anything?

  • borderline

    Fin,

    I’m interested in these non-baggage carrying unionists you describe; who have so little baggage they won’t vote for the union in a border poll.

    Must say, I’ve never met one, though.

    Talk about travelling light!

  • Fergananim

    But can ANYONE explain to me WHY Ireland and Northern Ireland should be united? Seriously.

  • Fergananim

    Re-reading this article makes me see Adams as de Valera, someone who should be long gone and holding back the party from the 21st century. But who the hell will be SF’s Lemass?

  • foreign correspondent

    ´´But can ANYONE explain to me WHY Ireland and Northern Ireland should be united? Seriously. ´´

    Well for one thing I think Irish people, north and south still have more in common with each other than with people in Britain even after 80 years of separation.
    I don´t like Sinn Fein, because they supported violence for many many years, but in a democracy they have the right to defend their point of view. I get the impression that a lot of people want them to shut up just because their way of thinking annoys them. Wouldn´t it be childish to say, God, Unionism what´s the point?
    People have a right to argue their point of view,
    as long as they aren´t killing anyone to get it across.

  • Driftwood

    People have a right to argue their point of view,

    That they do foreign correspondent, and it is good to do so. Political belief, like religuous belief (which unfortunately overlap here) are often ingrained in childhood. So the ‘philosophy’ is rationalised and hard to break.
    Daniel Dennett realised this in his book ‘Breaking the Spell’. In the following 8 points swap belief in God for political or economic belief….

    (1) The fallacy of sunk costs: “I’ve already invested fifty years of my life in this position, and it would be excruciatingly embarrassing to acknowledge my error. In fairness to myself, I was entrapped in this view when I was too young to know better, and I’ve never been able to find a face-saving exit strategy.”

    (2) Err on the side of prudence: “I can conjure up enough uncertainty about these issues to excuse myself from drawing the invited conclusions, which might be mistaken, after all, and could, I suppose, do some harm to somebody. Where it doesn’t itch, don’t scratch!”

    (3) Religion for art’s sake: “The only cost-effective way to preserve the great music, literature, and art of the world’s religions is to encourage all people to support these magnificent living museums with their weekly offerings.”

    (4) What would my mother think? “People whom I hold dear, and who depend on me emotionally, would be heartbroken to learn of my defection. I’m going to carry this white lie to the grave, or at least until my parents are safely in their graves and my children and loved ones give me clear signs of being able to take such a confession with equanimity.”

    (5) Credal calisthenics: “It keeps me modest, and fosters a desirable habit of moral reflection that helps me do the right thing ‘without even thinking’. It’s a method of self-purification that keeps me morally fit.”

    (6) We must fend off moral chaos: “I myself don’t need God to tell me how to live, but some people really do. Religious belief puts the fear of God into some who would otherwise behave reprehensibly.”

    (7) Don’t make waves: “I have more than enough substantive controversies that I would rather spend my energies on. Why discard alliances, make enemies, lose the affection of powerful friends and associates by raining on their parade?”

    (8) Dumbo’s magic feather: “Religious belief is a moral prosthesis: it strengthens the resolve and courage of many who want to be good but don’t have the true grit they need. If I recant, I contribute to the dissolution of an aspect of the world that they truly depend on. I have no right to take away their crutch.”

    The combination of any two or three of these is enough, apparently, to induce some very smart people to defend some very lame arguments. They would never tolerate such fuzzy and illogical thinking in their science–or, in the case of philosophers, in their analytic work in ethics or epistemology or metaphysics. They manage not to notice how they have transformed the object of their worship from the original Celestial Bio-engineer into a Divine Nudger of Randomness into an Omniscient Lawgiver into the (impersonal, but still somehow benign) Ground of All Being. Not only don’t they notice this comical retreat; they applaud the deep sophistication of the theologians who have conducted it. (I haven’t any idea what the Ground of All Being is, so I guess I don’t have to be an atheist about that. Maybe the process of evolution by natural selection just is God! Now there’s a way of reconciling evolution with religion! )

    Each reason for belief in belief in God is defensible up to a point, but we need to weigh the indirect side effects of going along with tradition. First, there’s the systematic hypocrisy that poisons discourse, and even more important, our vulnerability to those who abuse the “reverence” with which we are supposed to respond to their indulgences. We can continue to respect the good intentions of those who persist in professing belief in God, but we’ll be doing them a favor if we stop pretending that we respect the arguments they use to sustain these fantasies.