If Adams is a prisoner of his own past, can he provide a future for Sinn Fein?

Matt Cooper has a good piece on Gerry Adams, that contingent apology for the murder of Garda McCabe, the longer term problem of political credibility:

…it was notable how the man who maintained that he was never a member of the IRA, let alone one of its most important leaders, could take it upon himself to apologise for its actions. What “conflict” had been taking place in Adare when Jerry McCabe was shot dead or how was the case of Irish “freedom” advanced by a straightforward murder at a time of a criminal robbery?

Fortunately, Sinn Féin now takes a different position. Adams told the Dáil this week that he wanted to restate the resolve of Sinn Féin and the majority of Irish people to ensure there would never be a recurrence of conflict. “Members of An Garda Síochána do a dangerous job. They take risks for all of us.” For many years those risks involved confronting an IRA that was dedicated to the overthrow of this State and for whom Adams was its most powerful propagandist.

That history should never be forgotten. His colleagues like Martin McGuinness have achieved more by admitting to their past, something that has helped his bona fides among unionists (who have far more respect for him than they do for Adams). His actions, such as shaking Queen Elizabeth’s hand, and his work in the Northern Executive, have spoken far louder than words.

Adams instead is a prisoner of the past to which he won’t admit more than the past for which he is not apologising. He has been the leader of Sinn Féin now for 30 years, an extraordinary length of time in democratic politics in the western world. He is revered by many in his party, in a cult-like fashion, but when will the time come when the younger members of his party will say their thanks for what they believe he has achieved and ask him to move on, for their sake. [emphasis added]

I posed a similar question some years ago on the Guardian’s Comment is Free site (though it suspect some of its critics where mislead somewhat by the sub’s controversialist headline). But as today’s editorial in the Irish Times notes, Mr Adams marches to a different drum.

Mick is founding editor of Slugger. He has written papers on the impacts of the Internet on politics and the wider media and is a regular guest and speaking events across Ireland, the UK and Europe. Twitter: @MickFealty