How important is Gerry Adams for Irish politics?
Not as important as he used to be. Sinn Fein, his political party, haven’t sought to bury their past association with the IRA’s terrorist campaign, but haven’t heavily emphasized it either. It’s not a vote winner. There have been widespread allegationsthat Adams played a leadership role in the IRA, and Ireland’s Taoiseach (Prime Minister) Enda Kenny has challenged Adams to come clean on his past involvement in the organization. Adams represents an older generation in Sinn Fein, which is plausibly an electoral liability in much of Southern Ireland. He has also been seriously damaged by the revelation last year that his brother, Liam Adams, sexually abused his 5-year-old daughter, and that he knew about the abuse in 2000.
What are the consequences for peace in Northern Ireland?
Very hard to say. A lot will depend on how Sinn Fein and the IRA (which is intimately associated with Sinn Fein) react. Under the peace agreement, large numbers of IRA prisoners were released. The status of those who had not been charged with crimes (and hence weren’t prisoners at the time) was left ambiguous, but Sinn Fein clearly believed that they had secured an effective commitment that the people who were responsible for these crimes would be left unprosecuted. If Sinn Fein pulls out of the government of Northern Ireland, it will immediately precipitate a political crisis. If the party just makes loud angry noises, the current power sharing arrangement may survive.
Adams isn’t the first person to be arrested in connection with this murder — Ivor Bell was charged with aiding and abetting the killing last month, and while Sinn Fein complained vociferously, it has not threatened to abandon its role in government. Adams is, of course, a much more central figure, even if he is politically damaged. Outside observers used to allege that Sinn Fein’s decisions were dictated by the IRA’s Army Council. It will be interesting to observe what role the relicts of the IRA play in Sinn Fein decision making this time. [Emphasis added]
It’s worth reading the whole thing…
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