Adams damning McGuinness with faint praise..?

IT would have been easy for Gerry Adams to be fulsome in his praise of Martin McGuinness’ presidential campaign. Instead, the intro to Gerry Adams’ latest blog entry seems both ambiguous and odd – although the former may be politically ingrained and the latter blamed on his a faux folksy writing style. And – for a party as single-mindedly obsessed with expansionism as SF – not a word about the size of the vote.

Here’s the first par, the one every columnist knows is crucial, with the interesting bits in italics:

Martin McGuinness is a trail blazer. That much must be clear. Even to his detractors. A life devoted to struggle has seen many examples of this. Martin, in good times and bad, has had many opportunities and occasions to draw on these pioneering qualities. The net outcome has generally benefitted the people he struggled alongside. It has also, particularly in this time of peace, assisted those, in time of war, who would have been or seen themselves as his enemies or opponents.

Parsing Adams isn’t always easy, since he seems to revel in sending out different messages to different audiences in the same sentence. But he is a wordsmith, and so the ‘net’ outcome ‘generally’ benefitting McGuinness’ comrades seems a distinctly underwhelming commendation on any level. However, to accuse McGuinness of helping his enemies in any context is, well, strange and surprising to say the least, no matter how badly phrased. It seems designed to leave questions hanging in the air, unanswered. Is it some kind of shot across McGuinness’ bows? Why bring up such an issue at all?

Another paragraph caught my eye:

We also decided that Martin should challenge Sean Gallagher on this. We did so – and Martin challenged Sean Gallagher- in the knowledge at that stage in the campaign, depending on how Sean Gallagher responded, that Michael D Higgins would be the main beneficiary of any such challenge. Martin was and is entirely satisfied that this was the right thing to do. So am I.

Here, Adams is making it abundantly clear that the decision to challenge Gallagher was a collective one. It is reinforced several times with ‘we’ and is backed up with Adams’ and McGuinness’ endorsement. Such after-the-event unity can only mean that the decision to benefit Higgins rather than spare Gallagher has been criticised internally, the place where criticism really matters to Sinn Fein. And in this paragraph those critics are being told to shut up.

Despite his thanks to McGuinness in the last sentence, there is a distinct lack of direct and clear praise from Adams to his colleague. Indeed, all that Adams seems to think that has been achieved is that “many of the issues he argued for are now firmly on the public agenda”. Unfortunately for Sinn Fein, there are some issues from the past back on the agenda that may have largely disappeared over the horizon here, but haven’t gone away in the Republic.

Now, of course, McGuinness has to re-assume his role as deputy First Minister, and it will be interesting to see if perceptions of him change. Will his heart be in a job he knows is merely second best? Will he be seen as damaged goods, or a more fallible character? And will unionists who felt comfortable with a Chuckle Brother be influenced by Irish voters who just saw him as Chuckie Bother?

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