“Is there anyone in SF telling Gerry Adams what he needs to hear?”

If you read no one else on the fall for Sinn Fein over it’s reaction to the Smithwick Tribunal, then try Eilis O’Hanlon. Eilis ‘gets’ the north since she comes from the heart of Republican west Belfast. But (unusually for any Irish commentator) she also ‘gets’ the south:

Adams commits no crime when he repeatedly makes crass and offensive comments about some of the worst atrocities of the Troubles, but if politics is the art of avoiding blunders, then it’s a skill which appears to have deserted him. What last week showed is that Gerry Adams may have read the Smithwick report, but he didn’t understand it; or to put it another way, he understood what all the words said, but he didn’t understand what they meant. In short, Adams’s problem is that he thought the Smithwick report was about the North. It wasn’t. It was about the Garda Siochana.

That may seem like an obvious thing to say, but Adams simply does not seem to grasp the fondness and respect in which the Garda Siochana is held in the country in which he’s now an elected representative. People in what he calls the 26 counties not only feel that the Garda has been an honourable force for good, it’s important to their national sense of self that it be seen as such.

So when the Smithwick report concluded there had been collusion, on however isolated a scale, with the IRA, and that it had led in this instance to two brutal murders, it struck a chord. Two men had come unarmed to a neighbour’s house – and they had to be unarmed because of the provisions of the Anglo Irish Agreement which had been negotiated on behalf of the people – and they’d been struck down by evil. You only have to go back to the Icelandic sagas to see what a violation of hospitality is represented by killing men who come in good faith to your hearth.

That was the civilised human context in which everyone from the Taoiseach to the Garda Commissioner to ordinary people responded to the report. So did the PSNI, who pointedly said of the Garda Siochana: “We value their friendship, we value their co-operation and we value their professionalism and they have saved many lives alongside my own colleagues.” This is what peace making looks like.

That’s what Gerry Adams just didn’t and couldn’t get. The Smithwick report wasn’t about the North. It wasn’t about the Troubles. He didn’t understand that because, whilst his physical body might live in a house in Co Louth, his mind has never left the North, and it never will. When he read the report, Adams saw only the word “collusion”, and it transfixed him, rabbit-like in the headlights, because he instantly started thinking of collusion by the RUC and the British army. The people served by the Garda Siochana weren’t drawing up profit and loss tables to decide who was “worse” in this way. They were instead measuring the force against the highest standards which they expected of it, finding it wanting, and seeking to say and do the right thing in response. That’s why Adams’s crass remarks about the dead men’s “laissez faire” attitude to their own security were so shocking.

It’s hard to know what to leave out…

Like some obsessed trainspotter, Adams feigned innocence, pointing to the paragraphs in the report which prompted his remarks – and spectacularly missing the point in the process. The real question is: why did he pick up on those paragraphs? To most of us, they were a small part of the background narrative to the tragedy, certainly not its meaning. Why did that bit matter so much to Adams? It sounded as if he was trawling the report for ifs and buts, identifying the individual notes but not hearing the tune.

Having been sent down the wrong alley, everyone then started echoing Adams’s terms. When asked on Six One News about the fact that the Sinn Fein leader’s comments had “gone down like a lead balloon”, for example, even David Davin Power started talking about the murder of Pat Finucane and other incidents of collusion identified by Mr Justice Cory in his report a while back. Any relevance to the matter at hand was incidental at best. Finucane was a victim of collusion by the British. So, most likely, was loyalist leader Billy Wright. What did any of that have to do with how a decent, thinking human being should respond to Smithwick?

By the time of TV3’s Tonight With Vincent Browne on Wednesday evening, the mood had soured into a full blown bout of whataboutery, with Sinn Fein’s Padraig McLochlainn shouting about British infamy as if he was at a hunger strike rally in West Belfast in the early Eighties.

It got so bad for MacLoughlainn (like many elected SFers, he’s a person it is genuinely hard not to like when you meet him), that by Saturday he was protesting that Vincent Browne had ‘stitched him up’ by pretty much dwelling on the story for the whole of Wednesday’s programme.

“I’ve never seen the levels of emails, phonecalls and texts of support from people, not just in Donegal but across the country because what of they saw as a stitch up with four journalists including Vincent Browne against myself.”

O’Hanlon again…

The tribal love-in for the Provos which broke out last week could only ever serve to bolster a base of support for the armed struggle which was solidly behind SF anyway. In the process, it alienated the very people the party needs in order to make a breakthrough at the national level. It’s crazy. The right words could work for SF, but Adams either will not, or cannot, say them. Worse than that, he seems intent on repeatedly saying the wrong ones.

It’s possible that Sinn Fein, having reflected on the week’s events, may have come to this conclusion themselves, but of course fate intervened with the death of Nelson Mandela, which sent the Shinners off down memory lane, where they once more missed the point that what made Mandela great was the grace and magnanimity that he showed after ending armed struggle, both of which qualities are noticeably lacking in Gerry Adams. Making peace is not a single act. It’s a state of mind. It’s an aspect of character.

A full realisation of that will now have to wait. The Gerry Adams Appreciation Society is having a rare auld time of it this weekend, giddy as junior infants on a school trip to the panto; but it’s like former president Mary Robinson said on Friday’s Morning Ireland, when she recalled how, as UN high commissioner, she was faced with a dilemma over speaking up about human rights in the new South Africa. She decided that “friends tell you what you need to hear, not what you want to hear.”

Interesting to note that Sinn Fein in Northern Ireland successfully punctured any debate on Smithwick in Northern Ireland by refusing to send someone along to The View’s debate on Thursday evening, even if Martin McGuinness was able to find time to talk about Nelson Mandela.

Though it causes a bit of bump in the road at about 33.56, when Mark Carruthers asks the dFM to comment on the role the ANC played in persuading elements of the republican movement away from the path of violence and on to solely peaceful means.


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  • Neil


    saw that. As I said above it’s funny how Adams, the ANC and the Mandela clan don’t get Mandela, maybe someone from the Independent (or Slugger) could give them a call and explain.

  • Dixie Elliott

    I wonder though were they aware of his sordid past sean tracey?

    Then again the ANC like SF are corrupt and have changed nothing for the ordinary people.

    When you look at it that way it’s not surprising they selected a Quisso….

  • Dixie Elliott

    sean tracey this is the type of corruption which sees common ground with Adams’ SF….


    Most people would recognise that the ANC are now corrupt except of course shinners who believe it’s an acceptable part of being allowed to govern…

  • sean treacy

    Would I be correct Thomas,otherwise known as Dixie ,otherwise known as McIntyres message boy that youre more than a little miffed!

  • Son of Strongbow

    Apparently the ANC deaf signer spent the day singing Adams’ praise.

  • Dixie Elliott

    Why would I be miffed sean that the paedo protector was asked by a corrupt government to stand with like-minded people?

    When you have Bush, Obama, Prince Charles etc also in attendance you realise why so far the South African people seem to be snubbing it…

  • sean treacy

    Dixie ,it was an ANC event and none of the above were present.Youre not on the “quill” now where nonsense can be spouted without fear of contradiction.Give us a break and stay there where you can discuss “big house republicanism” (but not Mcfeely) or those dastardly Shinners persecuting “sound republicans like Paddy murray” Remember all that!?

  • Dixie Elliott

    For Sean you really couldn’t be bothered to read the article or is too much an Adamsite fanatic to care…

    “He pulls a pay slip from his jacket. The Lonmin mining company pays him the equivalent of €600 ($750) a month to operate winches 1,000 meters (3,280 feet) underground. “It simply isn’t enough,” he says. “I have to feed my wife and three children with the money.” Ndlelen was among the 3,000 workers who went on strike at the Marikana platinum mine more than two weeks ago.
    The workers were demanding that Lonmin double their wages. They danced, sang songs and even waved spears and machetes. On Thursday, August 16, police officers finally lost their patience and fired into the crowd with automatic weapons. When it was over, 34 of Ndlelen’s fellow miners lay dead.

    Black police officers had mowed down black workers, just as the apartheid police had once fired on black demonstrators. The bloodbath is a disaster for the African National Congress (ANC), which has governed the country since 1994. But the party of national hero Nelson Mandela has already been losing authority and credibility for years. Nowadays, it is primarily viewed as corrupt, incompetent and arrogant…”

  • Dixie Elliott

    * Correction… “For Sean WHO really couldn’t be bothered…

  • sean treacy

    Talking about corruption,you have yet to comment on the calibre of some of those leading the ” big” march in August.Apparenly it is not the slightest bit corrupt to “redistribute” prisoners dependents money but then maybe like father Ted, “it is only resting in their accounts” I know you reported to us all enthusiastically about the “success” of this march and how those sell out merchants at the Felons club were subjected to “take it down from the MASK” A version of the old song most republicans have never heard of !

  • Alias

    Given that the ANC were booed by the people of South Adrica any time they stepped near a microphone, being selected by them as one of their cronies will probably mean that he’ll need an armed guard just to get safety to an airport…

  • Dixie Elliott

    sean tracey don’t you talk about not commenting, every time I put something to you you hid just like you do behind fake usernames.

    No matter what you say your leader is a proven paedo protector and nothing can cancel that out…

    And as for comical Marty sean the safest Republican in Ireland by all accounts.

    And as I keep reminding you, shinners dread whats coming next, while I need only wait and see, knowing what it likely is…

  • Dixie Elliott
  • sean treacy

    Are you on the sauce Dixie,going by the time of your posts and the content,it looks very much like it!

  • Dixie Elliott

    I loved this one from David MacSweeney about comical Marty’s trip to South Africa some years ago…

    “..In the years building up to the Stormont Deal/GFA a delegation of Unionists, Nationalists, Republicans and “Process” hangers on visited South Africa.

    Martin McGuinness represented Sinn Fein on the trip. The purpose of the trip was to travel to various parts of South Africa to learn from the defeat of the apartheid philosophy of that country, which was to be the springboard for partial reconciliation and a certain form of peace in the African nation.

    On his return I was at a Sinn Fein meeting in which McGuinness regaled the assembled with the hilarity the trip had exposed him to. Mr McGuinness explained how there was a main bus for the majority of the party and a minibus for the Sinn Fein people, because the Unionists would not travel on the same bus as the Shinners.

    Mr McGuinness accepted this humiliation, happy to traipse around after the main bus relegated to second class citizenship. The irony of this taking place during the death phase of apartheid in South Africa seems to have escaped McGuinness, or maybe not…”

  • sean treacy

    Gerry certainly wasn’t relegated to second class citizenship in South Africa this weekend!

  • Dixie Elliott

    You don’t get the irony of it do you sean tracey? The reason being because you’re a blind follower…

    If McGuinness and the SF delegation had the courage of Rosa Parks they’d have told the Unionists that they were travelling in the main bus and if they didn’t like that then the minibus was available.

    That this happened on a fact finding trip to South Africa must make it all the more humiliating for Marty and the others…

  • Rory Carr

    It is not a matter of Séan Treacy failing to”get the irony”, Dixie but rather of you failing to understand McGuinnness’s magnanimity and grace. By allowing the DUP to have the ‘Big Bus’ and demonstrating humility in not attaching importance to the mode of transport he allowed the DUP to demonstrate their own shallowness to the world press.

    I fear your bitterness is blinding you to much, Dixie and, if you were unable to see the simple plain truth of what I have said above then it is doing much damage to your value judgement. You are a better man than that and need to take a step back and quiet the rancour in your soul – it always damages the person who holds it while having no effect whatsoever on the person to whom it is aimed. I say this in a spirit of care, not in any attempt to discredit you, but rather for your own good.

  • Barnshee

    “understand McGuinnness’s magnanimity and grace. ”

    This would be the ” magnanimity and grace. ” associated with and demonstrated at Claudy Enniskillen Tebane La Mon etc etc etc
    Heaven preserve us when/if his “magnanimity and grace” run out

    You could not make it up

  • Barnshee

    ” By allowing the DUP to have the ‘Big Bus’ and demonstrating humility in not attaching importance to the mode of transport he allowed the DUP to demonstrate their own shallowness to the world press.”

    If someone chooses a “different form of transport” there is SFA anyone else can do about.

    It reminded me of the studied choreography where Marty shakes Queenies hand and is then ignored by the Duke of E . Queenie has to do it — the Duke don`t

    Nobody is oblidged to sit “on the bus” or “beside anyone else in the bus”

  • Rory Carr

    Thank you, Barnshee, for solidifying my point by demonstrating your very own lack of magnanimity and grace, not to mention perspicacity. Keep up the good work and, who knows, one day you may qualify for your very own spot on LAD .

  • Barnshee

    “Thank you, Barnshee, for solidifying my point by demonstrating your very own lack of magnanimity and grace, not to mention perspicacity”

    The appropiate response is to explain why my arguement that

    “Nobody is oblidged to sit “on the bus” or “beside anyone else in the bus” is invalid.

    ( I have experience of people carefully avoiding Marti`s handshake -the same people incidentally avoided the Rev I Paisleys handshake– some people have more self respect than others)

  • Dixie Elliott

    So Rory Carr Rosa Parks showed neither magnanimity nor grace by refusing to be treated as 2nd class, did she?

    The fact is McGuinness allowed himself to be humiliated by the Unionists and you can try all you want to gloss over that fact by claiming that the mode of transport didn’t matter.

    The fact is, the Unionists continue to humiliate them from the Irish Language Act to the so called Peace Center. Each time they appear on TV together it’s clear that the Unionists amuse themselves by belittling the shinners and they in turn can’t get past the peace process.

    All this crap about bitterness doesn’t wear as it’s only one in a long line of taglines thrown out by you lot like the well worn ‘chip in the shoulder’.

    The fact is SF have changed nothing since the Unionists allowed them to sit in government. They are dragged out to condemn then pushed back again. Mere puppets of the state.

  • sean treacy

    Dixie ,if SF have changed nothing and are puppets of the state ,we will have to consign them to the dustbin of history and rally behind those who set themselves on fire in Belfast huxter shops.These “keepers of the flame” are our only hope and couldn’t possibly be puppets of anyone!

  • Dixie Elliott

    sean tracey those people who try and mimic tactics that failed in the past are of no concern of mine but you batter ahead with the old Dixie’s a ‘disso’ line because as I pointed out several times I’d rather be known as a disso than a supporter of paedo protectors…

  • sean treacy

    Im sure Dixie that you are so opposed to “those people” that if any of them turned up at for example “a big march”,you would stage a walk out immediately.You would certainly not talk approvingly of their chanting outside the felons club ,insulting people who devoted their lives to republicanism

  • Neil


    the death of Nelson Mandela, which sent the Shinners off down memory lane, where they once more missed the point