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…
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.
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…