After the last laugh, the coda

.. and worth another thread in my view. Here we have a sad little case of a British solution to an Irish problem. Or is it the other way round? The British are slippery and the Irish are churlish. One of those pinpoints of attitude so beloved by disputants on both sides that illustrate the essential gap between them that survives the peace process.

 The Westminster authorities were undoubtedly disingenuous (the Tory Richard Bacon is right, quoted by Nevin below) by deeming Adams to have applied for the office when he obviously hadn’t. But to start with, Adams was churlish and arrogant to a fault. His letter to the Speaker bordered on the contemptuous. Of course he had little choice but to steer clear of the nominal Crown office. Any breath of acceptance would have set all loyal Ulster crowing. Yet what a pity that a light touch with a bit of grace was beyond him, Westminster having bent over backwards for decades to allow him the best of both worlds.

Does it matter? Not much, just now. Only the Tory right and the Westminster- hardened (and I suppose unionists) actually love the quaint traditions of the centuries at Westminster, like not being allowed to die on the premises even if you keel over on camera. Like the slow growth of support for a more democratic oath, this gesture may be one of those small pebbles that may one day contribute to a rockfall of reform. But singling out SF for special treatment would set no precedent for change. As qualified abstentionists they have no interest in it and wish only to hold onto their exceptional status. The rooms and halls of Westminster give them a public platform and lobbying access and that is all they want.  If pushed, they will quit the precincts altogether, raising the old cry of victimisation. Chris Donnelly is right. At this level SF will win if challenged because here, they have no scruples. That, it seems to me,  if not a very admirable position to hold.

 The SDLP should stay out of it. They observe the rules and procedures including taking the oath under mild  protest. Their civilised stance recognises the fact of the Union which participation in Parliament entails even if they legitimately would like to change it. An SDLP MP seeking early retirement would be a far better catalyst for change. They have the basic credentials. 

As the impact of the peace process recedes, this little affair adds a few points to Conservative dislike of Sinn Fein and contributes to the perceptible hardening of attitude towards republicanism that is markedly less indulgent than in the Blair era. One day, that might matter.

, , , , , ,

  • Banjaxed

    Ho Hum.
    GA throws a ball at the coconut conventions in Westminster and receives acres of condemnation on Slugger.
    Nelson McCausland is caught bang-to-rights for telling ‘untruths’ about the business plans for NI sports stadia, yet I look in vain for a posting.
    Plus ca change….

  • Kevin Barry

    Is there nothing else going on back home at the moment? This is another non-story which is fairly pathetic in the extreme.

    ‘The SDLP should stay out of it. They observe the rules and procedures including taking the oath under mild protest. Their civilised stance recognises the fact of the Union which participation in Parliament entails even if they legitimately would like to change it.’

    The rules and procedures have been shown up for what the are, archaic. As for taking their seats in Westminster showing them as civilised, what’s uncivilised about abstaining? SF seems to be able to get many concessions from successive British governments without actually taking seats in the Commons.

  • Brian

    What comes after the Coda?

    The Resurrection?

  • Fionn

    “The rooms and halls of Westminster give them a public platform and lobbying access and that is all they want.”

    Really Brian, I always thought it was the people who voted for them that gave them a public platform and lobbying access.

    Why are you bringing up the oath, we agreed long ago that it wasn’t the issue.

  • fitzjameshorse1745

    I certainly approve of another threa. I always like to see people have wriggle room.
    But “disingenuous”? Isnt that a bit like lying? Indeed isnt it exactly like lying.
    And yes “all loyal Ulster” would have been crowing at Mr Adams accepting a non existent Crown Office (a peculiar thing in itself) but actually all of loyal Ulster WAS crowing……certainly the part represented on this message board. And prematurely. And wrongly.
    Good knockabout stuff which backfired. Those who laughed can hardly claim “foul” when those of us laughing more loudly point up the folly.Long runs the fox.
    An uncomfortable feeling for some of us to defend Mr Adams. Even more uncomfortable when hes right.
    But indeed credit to the SDLP who steer a sensible path thru British sacred parliamentary mystique/tradition (or rubbish as those of us living in the 21st century call it) and Indeed Irish republican flummery (accepting Jobseekers Allowance is actually more significant than accepting the Chiltern Hundreds).
    The SDLP know that.
    They played a blinder. And so did Sinn Féin.
    A trivial story made important.
    Sally Bercow was doing the Press Preview on Sky last night. If the Speaker was concerned about all this he may not have mentioned it to Sally. Certainly she did not mention it when discussing the papers for 25 minutes with Iain Dale. They did mention Andy Coulson……journalism…..etc Actually quite a lot.
    I suppose its a matter of priorities.
    But indeed congratulations to the SDLP who

  • Brian Walker

    It’s the “trivial” topics, the gnawing at old bones that excite some of the greatest interest and controversy in Slugger, as we all know. I’ve been trying to stir up interest in the economy for instance without much success unless it involves a free hit on somebody.
    I’m trying here to describe a way forward here with honours equal which might be useful in a wider context. Adams’ behaviour matters. He often seems to be dour on in principle. Is this the spirit for going forward into the post – peace process age?

    He might have written;

    “I hereby resign as MP for West Belfast. For many years I have represented my constituents in a manner compatible with my principles.

    In the same spirit, I ask you to treat this letter as fulfilling the norms for resigning, without my having to assent to them myself.”

    See.? Simple. At the cost of a touch of casuistry, honours are even and it would have been difficult for the usual critics to jump up and down about it .

  • Drumlins Rock

    House of Commons Disqualification Act 1975

    8. Relaxation of obligation to accept office.
    — (1) No person being a member of the House of Commons, or for the time being nominated as a candidate for election to that House, shall be required to accept any office or place by virtue of which he would be disqualified by this Act for membership of that House, or for membership of that House for the constituency for which he is sitting or is a candidate.

  • Drumlins Rock

    Here is the link for the full text of that Act, which is the law of the United Kingdom, it might be based on Erskine May’s book but it was made law in 1975,

    http://www.statutelaw.gov.uk/content.aspx?activeTextDocId=1804148

    As the law stands (you can argue that it needs changed but this how it stands) you cannot resign from Parliament, but you can leave via disqualification under this act, if anything it is a simpler process and less likely to cause confusion.

    Read the text and so far as I can see Gerry remains MP, but it gives him loads of other ways to “resign” without making a stunt out of the process.

  • DC

    Is there nothing else going on back home at the moment? This is another non-story which is fairly pathetic in the extreme.

    Slugger should have had the story of the health worker who ate her patient’s meals up as a matter of public interest and concern over the running of public services in the health sector – yet that water story seems to run and run.

  • Fionn

    Brian, for better or for worse your example of a resignation letter is what Adams would have written had he been in the SDLP. As a SF MP had it written it, odds on it would have been leaked and unionists would be crowing at him for playing the game.

    Regarding the economy, why bother, Sammy has 4,000,000,000 worth of cuts to make, yet it was still more important for him and his fellow MPs/MLAs to fly to London to ask a noddy question, I wonder if they stayed the night as well, nice West End hotel, spot of dinner somewhere nice, bit of shopping today and then back home,

    A few days ago Pete posted Adams bondmarket quote interview, thing is the sound of Leo snorting and giggling at the idea that you could get a better deal from bondholders comes over loud and clear, Leo would prob be snorting louder if Adams had suggested HMG would just have to fudge centuries of tradition cos he didn’t care about it. So now, introduce him to the bondholders and he can sort that them out as well

  • “It’s the “trivial” topics, the gnawing at old bones that excite some of the greatest interest and controversy in Slugger, as we all know”

    Not with me it isn’t. If you and your colleagues abandoned the substantive stuff, you would not find me following Slugger for very long. Looking forward to your next meaningful post Brian.

  • madraj55

    I saw on TV the rather sad spectacle of DUP figures in stitches at the discomfort of Adams over this silly westminster title. It shows them up for the petty sectaria bigots they are. As if they weren’t busy sharing power with the shinners.The truth is they know the tide is going out [however slowly] on their contrived majority and they still hanker after the days of Brookeborough, it’s just not politic to admit it now.

  • There were options open to Adams and he chose this option. This is not a non story but a glimpse of the mind set of one of our leading political actors. Similarly his recent media performances are a matter of choice. This is not poor decision making per se, albeit it clearly is, rather this is Adams saying the rules don’t apply to him if they don’t suit whether they be Westminster constitutional or conventional electioneering.

  • Kevin Barry

    “It’s the “trivial” topics, the gnawing at old bones that excite some of the greatest interest and controversy in Slugger, as we all know”

    Seymour Major, I couldn’t agree with you more, I prefer the substantive topics here. While there is always plenty of room for humour and tangents the amount of time and energy put into this issue is outstanding primarily because people have tried to pin some perceived political difficulties and embarrassment on GA that is non-existent.

    What precisely was wrong with Adam’s resignation letter? He’s an abstentionist Irish Republican MP who handed in a fairly straightforward resignation letter. The Commons did what it had to do so that all parties could save face, however, some couldn’t help themselves and wanted to make petty political gain from it and are now seen as a laughing stock.

  • DidleeDOSquat

    As a unionist what I found amusing was the Ra’s 1st Internet Batt. rushing to defend Jarry’s Irish Republican credentails in the face of Parliament’s expectation that he could act in a civilised manner. That and, yet again, British politicians providing cover to ease him along.

    It came as no surprise that the Dear Leader of the Murder Party couldn’t resist displaying his bigoted nature by his cheap comments on British political culture (parody of esteem perhaps?).

    Having said that I also laughed when he tossed in a few words of an old dead language to condemn “archaic” practices.

  • Neil

    There were options open to Adams and he chose this option. This is not a non story but a glimpse of the mind set of one of our leading political actors. Similarly his recent media performances are a matter of choice. This is not poor decision making per se, albeit it clearly is, rather this is Adams saying the rules don’t apply to him if they don’t suit whether they be Westminster constitutional or conventional electioneering.

    Taken out of context fair enough, but when you take into consideration the common knowledge that Adams doesn’t take his seat or his oath due to not recognising the legitimacy of the British Parliament’s involvement in Ireland, it’s really to be expected.

    It’s almost as though some people hallucinated that Adams had not only done all that he factually did in winding down the IRA etc., but that at some point he also pointed out that from now on he intended as a result of the peace process to recognise the Queen of England as his monarch, and basically rescinded everything he stood for throughout his life to that point. Bollocks to that. Not because of some archaic loop hole was he expected to abandon an ideology that he risked his life for for decades.

    It seems to me (and I’m sure it’s a feeling some Loyalists/Unionists will be familiar with reciprocally) that Unionists deliberately fail to get the simple nature of Irish Republicanism. Why else would any sane human being expect Adams to accept an office of profit under the crown? It’s not like this is out of the blue, that there haven’t been any clues over the past 40 years of the regard in which he holds the British Parliament. It’s wilful misunderstanding, which is fair enough as a wind up tactic (I do a bit of that myself), but the pretence of ‘I’m shocked he didn’t have more manners about it old boy’ is a touch unbelievable given the history and circumstances.

  • Drumlins Rock

    Neil, to clarify, being Steward of Northstead is no more a breach of Republican Ideals than being a Clerk of North Belfast DHSS. so what is the issue?

  • Neil

    There is no issue. Resignation letter delivered, end of story. If the British expect some merry dance to be danced in order for someone to reign they can dance alone.

  • Neil

    *resign. Cracker.

  • DidleeDOSquat

    Dear Leader’s “winding down” of the Irish Republican Murder Gang has been a great success. That is if you disregard the Engineering Departments transfer to the rebranded gang. The fruits of which are presently being experienced by the folks in North Belfast.

  • fitzjameshorse1745

    Drumlins Rock.
    You are indeed correct. As I pointed out Jobseekers Allowance is more significant than the Chiltern Hundreds. I myself enjoy a pension courtesy of Mrs Windsor, having devoted (???) myself to her service for more years than I care to remember.
    Not as a clerk in the North Belfast DHSS …an honourable calling. But lets face it there would be no sniggering on Slugger threads at that calling.
    A reasonable person might think that I should be grateful. Oddly I am a bit of an ingrate. “Unionists” dont get that Gerry Adams can be overtly antagonistic to all this nonsense while the SDLP can be for the most part passively indifferent.
    I can do both with equal applomb. And in fact the nationalist/republican community can swith from one to the other with ease. We learn that skill early..
    In fact Gerrys way is not always the right way. But its much more fun to be honest.
    Now I must check with my bank that Mrs Windsor has paid this months installment in keeping me in the style to which Ive become accustomed.

  • Dec

    “The fruits of which are presently being experienced by the folks in North Belfast.”

    The vvast majority of those affected (and I’m one of them), if they do vote, will vote for SF in the next election. So what’s your point?

  • DidleeDOSquat

    One of your fellow Jarryistas suggested that Dear Leader wound down the Murder Gang formerly known as PIRA. I simply pointed out that the Murder Gang, now rebranded as Ogglee nar Hairon I believe, continues to deploy the same munitions today.

    Am I surprised that you and many others like you will vote again for the Murder Party? Not in the least. Given its body count to date why would you baulk at putting your X beside them now?

  • Hi Neil

    In choosing to answer my first point you ignored my second point which is less moot as the evidence is less open to interpretation or ideology.

    Conventional electioneering requires, among many other things, the party leader to be well drilled on a wide range of issues, comfortable if not at ease with the media, and leading from the front by example

    Given the debacle of last time around he has chosen not to put the hours in with the flashcards, chosen not to be interrogated by “hostile” colleagues beforehand, and chosen not to step aside;and in running relies on bluff and bluster and on occasion abuse. He’s an embarrassment and a liability.

  • Dec

    So you had no point. Glad, that’s sorted.

  • the old Manxman

    To an outsider this all looks a bit weird and rather sad. What is a slightly intriguing and mildly amusing question of constitutional law for politics geeks is being treated as a matter of life and death (or more important than that).

    Republicans are proclaiming the whole thing as a famous victory over the entire British Establishment. Which rather ignores the fact that that Establishment has only made some minor adjustment to engineer a situation that happens to suit both you and them. Also if you’re denouncing meaningless flummery, it might not be a good idea to top and tail the letter in a language neither you or the recipient speak.

    Unionists are meanwhile insisting that all this is the equivalent of Mr Adams crawling up to Buckingham Palace and putting his head under Mrs Mountbatten’s brogues. Pics or it didn’t happen.

    Meanwhile Slugger has devoted eight, no nine, threads to the subject, all copiously and repetitively commented on. Minor matters such as the British or Irish economies or the leadership of the largest party in the Dail slip by without notice. Even if Gerry Adams is mentioned.

    Did Northern Ireland become so used to gesture politics in the years of Westminster rule that it can do no other kind?

    Meanwhile I would recommend not being so rude about men in tights. At least they’re only pretending to be in the seventeenth century.

  • Scamallach

    Very pleasant to see a rounded and biased approach to the topic rather than Pete Baker’s “crowing”. Well said, Brian.