Ten more years! Ten more years!

Having been billed in advance as ‘significant’, there’s been a noticeable absence of applause from the usual suspects for the recently re-announced, but yet to be revealed, Gerry Adams’ Sinn Féin’s 10 year plan for leadership change a “process of generational change”.  [Do those ‘suspects’ know who they are? – Ed] Probably… [And does ’10 years’ mean this generation will miss out? – Ed]  Possibly…

On the other hand, properly sceptical observers have had a field day…

Suzanne Breen in the Belfast Telegraph

Gerry Adams was never the type of leader to go quietly into the night. But the Sinn Fein president is making an unprecedented song and dance about his retirement.

He is seeking re-election at November’s Ard Fheis at which details will be revealed of the party’s “process of generational change”. So what could have been a quick adieu has become the long goodbye with Gerry in the limelight all the while.

Talk of Sinn Fein’s “10-year plan” is reminiscent of Stalinist Russia, not 21st century Ireland. But it’s in keeping with a party where democratic centralism thrives, with a small clique making the key decisions.

There is huge loyalty to Adams within Sinn Fein ranks but that alone can’t explain why he has remained leader for 34 years without challenge.

A radical republican party would be expected to enjoy a livelier internal life than that with at least an occasional clash of ideas and jockeying for position.

Miriam Lord in Wednesday’s Irish Times

By yesterday morning, the tension had become unbearable. People were forced to endure until the penultimate page of what party headquarters advised would be “a significant address” by Adams. Some guests in the City North Hotel probably attributed the strange rattling noise in their vicinity to planes coming in to land at nearby Dublin Airport, but it was just the sound of Sinn Féin and media knees knocking.

A few minutes after 10am, we were all put out of our misery and got a decision.

“I will be allowing my name to go forward for the position of Uachtarán Shinn Féin.”

And … exhale.

The sense of relief was so overwhelming that everyone almost kept a straight face and journalists nearly rushed from the room to file the news.

Gerry had courageously declared he would stand again for the party leadership, an office he has occupied, unchallenged, for the past 33 years. Later in the afternoon he outlined the scale of the challenge facing him at November’s ardfheis in the RDS.

“Anyone is free to put their name forward,” he said in Irish, clearly anticipating another white-knuckle ride in the leadership stakes. “There is no change in that.”

True enough, anyone has been free to stand against Gerry since 1983. It’s not his fault that nobody has.

However, having triumphed in the cauldron of electoral walkovers for more than three decades, Sinn Féin’s perpetual president gave firm indications last year that he doesn’t intend to go on forever. Back then he publicly contemplated the possibility that he might have to start thinking about not allowing his name to go forward for consideration.

On that point, Malachi O’Doherty in the Belfast Telegraph

Some senior members of Sinn Fein must have been privately disheartened to read the title of Gerry Adams’ new book. It is due out in November, in time to go on sale at the stall in the Ard Fheis, and it is called Never Give Up.

This is going to read to some like a hint that he personally will never give up his leadership of Sinn Fein, and that his long goodbye will exhaust all those around him.

His announcement that he will put himself forward for election at the coming Ard Fheis and then announce plans for the generational change is just too confusing for those who hoped he might go now and give others a chance to lead and shape the party.

It includes the message that he is going, but also suggests that he will stay until he has reshaped the future party to his liking.

And we have seen how he does that, in his anointing of Michelle O’Neill as ‘Northern leader’, a post that previously didn’t exist.

This must be hugely exasperating to people with ambitions to lead the party themselves.

And Anthony McIntyre,

It would have been truly stunning had yesterday’s statement been of authentic significance, the occasion used by the corrosive old caudillo to usher in a creative young leader. Instead he primed the media with the announcement of something significant to come and then leapt onto the podium eagerly provided from where he stamped the party presidential imprimatur on an extension of his political career.

Yesterday’s speech was never about heralding any change at the top. It was simply spun that way with language like “planned process of generational change.” The thing about Adams and processes is that they can take quite a long time coming to fruition and they are always conducive to his political career.

There has been no Sinn Fein policy shift in thirty-four years that was not at the same time advantageous to his political fortunes. His leadership skill rests in persuading his followers that his career interests are indistinguishable from the party’s. Somewhere in there lies Karl Kraus’s secret of the demagogue which is “to make himself as stupid as his audience, so they believe they are as clever as he.”

Moreover, an iron grip on power is concomitant with the pleasure of command. People do not build up the type of political stamina that Gerry Adams has just for someone else to steal the thunder. In thirteen months’ time, when he shall be 70, he will have led Sinn Fein for half his lifetime.

Democratic parties where power is routinely transferred do not accommodate such uninhibited ambition. A plurality of thinking and interests, egos and sleights, invariably give rise to leadership challenges. The last leadership bid was made three and half decades ago by Adams. Since then, zippo. A party is in a state of torpor if it believes it is so talentless that only one person can lead it for almost forty years.

Finally, last word to Suzanne Breen

The Sinn Fein president’s political longevity shouldn’t be confused with success. Judged by his own past words, he has failed.

As a young man he vowed that the IRA campaign would continue until it ended victoriously with a British withdrawal.

As a middle-aged man speaking after the IRA ceasefire, he predicted a united Ireland by 2016.

Now he’s reduced to calling for a border poll which republicans are doomed to lose.

In any other party that would be deemed failure. But Sinn Fein’s cult of leadership means they’ll continue applauding as Gerry dances on – despite decades of broken pledges.

Ten more years…

, , , , , , ,

  • Brian Kann

    Interesting context in all of this, as and when it comes, is how SF will fare with a new leader and general direction driven from the Republic for the first time (likely Mary Lou). This is unchartered waters for them and will be fascinating to see how the support base in the North reacts to this. Will this see a change in dynamics? Will NI SF voters feel marginalised? Will Mary Lou and others try to increase their public profile here? And will this cause any splits? I listen to Newstalk a lot and while she seems strong enough, she at least admits this is something they will obviously have to think of when Adams goes.

    You have to think there is a part of SF that is a tad worried about this, perhaps partly explaining the long ten year handover.

  • Korhomme

    “President for life?”

    Cynical, moi?

  • 1729torus

    SF has been growing rapidly under Gerry Adams, speculation about a useless leader clinging to power is groundless. It ensures that their vote is loyal in both NI and RoI as well.

    Finally, the Dublin establishment wastes energy on attacking Adams, posturing, and using state institutions to pull stunts. This makes SF grow even more in the long run.

  • mickfealty

    Have you read the piece? This from McIntyre is priceless:

    “Democratic parties where power is routinely transferred do not accommodate such uninhibited ambition. A plurality of thinking and interests, egos and sleights, invariably give rise to leadership challenges.

    “The last leadership bid was made three and half decades ago by Adams. Since then, zippo. A party is in a state of torpor if it believes it is so talentless that only one person can lead it for almost forty years.”

  • David Crookes

    Sir Gerry Mugabe is 179.

  • NotNowJohnny

    Growing rapidly under Mr Adams it may be. But what is it delivering for its voters under Mr Adam’s leadership? What has this rapidly growing party delivered for its voters in the North under his leadership in the last ten years?

  • mickfealty

    Talking to a relative recently who has shifted to SF in the last ten years, he seems to be convinced a post GA will fare better.

    But it’s been my view for some time that the optimum moment for departure passed quite some time ago: https://goo.gl/XViJGE.

    Not popular at the time, but it had to be said. Gerry’s reluctance to let go will have to be accounted for sooner or later in the way McIntyre outlines above. He’s become such a singular beacon.

  • 1729torus

    With the benefit of hindsight, and fully taking into account Unionist politicians and powersharing, what is the best you think nationalist politicians could ever have reasonably hoped have achieved? How does SF compare to that hypothetical outcome?

  • the rich get richer

    Is it that Gerry needs a teeny weeny bit more experience . He might grow into the job given a teeny weeny bit more time .

    A teeny weeny bit more serious here……Do Not Present Gerry Adams as Leader at a General Election in the South Again……For Fooks sake…….

  • T.E.Lawrence

    You don’t challenge an Army Council you abide to its thinking and strategy ? The nature of the SF Beast !

  • Granni Trixie

    If so how can you explain current complaints by former sf activists down south about bullying in SF ?

  • Surveyor

    If Sinn Fein are destined to lose a border poll you would have thought that Unionist’s would be calling for one asap to really put the boot in.

  • Aodh Morrison

    In large part articles speculating on the continuing ‘leadership’ of the Sinn Féin gang by Adams are pointless. SF are not like a normal political party; at least that is like any political party in western democracies. Setting aside his “war” record, Adams’ has been involved in scandals that would have sunk a real politician.

    The ‘Army Council’ has obviously decreed that the Dear Leader continue. He will ‘win’ any leadership ‘contest’ that is manufactured for a gullible media to ponder on.

    Still no worries, if he ever is ordered to go by the AC this side of the turf it’ll only be a short time thereafter before he begins to deny ever being the ‘President’ of Sinn Féin.

  • Brian Kann

    In fairness Aodh, we’re talking about NI. He’s not the only one with such associations with violence nor with scandals. The normal rules don’t apply here.

  • Aodh Morrison

    What! I though the Shinners claimed to be an “all island party”?

    Surely you’re not suggesting that its centre of gravity is based around the northern hard men?

  • Brian Kann

    I’d personally say in the near future, it probably won’t be as the the South assumes more and more importance.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    They have to example of Teresa’s recent attempt to up her majority in order to give her some credibility in the exit negotiations. “Many’s a slip….”

  • Nordie Northsider

    Every now and again there is speculation about Adams having a tilt at the other Presidency – the one that ends in Áras an Uachtaráin rather than Connolly House. I think that would be a disaster for SF to have Adams front, middle and centre of such a campaign. But who knows? If he wants the SF nomination, he’ll get it.

  • mickfealty

    I’d add this from Eilish O’Hanlon (https://goo.gl/Jihz4w)…

    “Adams’s problem is not his age, but his perverse, freakish longevity. He’s been politically stale for years, but his ego hasn’t let him admit it. It can’t be said often enough: parties where leaders do not face challenges to their authority from time to time are not normal, and Adams has been there so long that stagnation has infected his party.

    “He essentially admitted as much, even if he didn’t realise that he was doing it, when he also told a party gathering in Co Meath last week that, “if” he wins in November, he will be “setting out” what he called “our planned process for generational change”.

    “This is weird language. Normal political parties don’t have to instigate a “process” to bring about “generational change”, because it happens organically. In fact, try stopping it. Why is a new drive towards positive discrimination needed if not because they’ve been deliberately held back for years?”

  • mickfealty

    Arlene nearly did once, but she retracted pretty quickly. If a UI matters to anyone, they should be working on creating the conditions in which you could be sure of actually winning one. The Quebec example is salutary.

    Only polarise when you are pretty certain that the numbers will stack up. One could be forgiven talk of border poll is a displacement issue for SF just now.

  • Surveyor

    Fecking hell, you would think Sinn Féin were in the doldrums if you read this and didn’t know any better. A bit of balance would be nice on this site.

  • Granni Trixie

    Here’s hoping he becomes a candidate for Aras a Uachtarain.

  • epg_ie

    They’re an incredibly minor party so who is affected by their nominal leadership? Even people in NI are barely affected by the identity of SF’s nominal leadership. They win a tiny fraction of the votes in the UK, and in the South of Ireland they play a fringe role, even given a Dáil whose numbers let them hold the balance of power.

  • eamoncorbett

    He wouldn’t be that foolish.

  • eamoncorbett

    Are you admitting that Unionists have been sharing power with an army council ? Has it been proved without doubt that it still exists. I ask out of genuine curiosity because I heard this story once before.

  • T.E.Lawrence

    1. Yes – Unionists have always been sharing power with an army council (nature of the beast). Currently that Army Council has decided on a strategy of peaceful political processes.
    2. https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2015/oct/20/ira-still-exists-but-in-much-reduced-form-says-official-report
    3. Who elected Michelle O’Neil SF Northern Leader ?

  • Nordie Northsider

    I don’t know why you would hope for that, Trixie. He hasn’t a hope in hell of winning and he would bring down a tidal wave of negative coverage on SF’s head. I remember SF people saying of Martin McGuinness’s tilt at the Áras that it bring negative Troubles-related commentary to a head, ‘lance the boil’ so to speak. It didn’t work then and it won’t work now. The best thing SF could do in relation to the Presidency is to get behind a leftist unity candidate who is Sound on the National Question.

  • the rich get richer

    He’d have a better chance in North Korea….

  • Tochais Siorai

    It’d be nice to see Michael D. give him a tanking alright.

  • Tochais Siorai

    Which is what they and every major other party will do.

  • Christopher Mc Camley

    Maybe, like Castro, there’s a brother who could get the job. But then again…

  • DP Moran

    Worst thing Sinn Fein ever did was replace Ruairi O’Bradaigh with this toxic buffoon.