Gerry Adams: “No one should underestimate the enormous energy and manipulation it must have required…”

Some insightful observations from Alex Kane in the Irish Times

…his most extraordinary quality has been political and psychological agility and adaptability. On a number of occasions he has triple-somersaulted Sinn Féin from previously fixed positions, taking months, sometimes years, to persuade his republican base that change was required for the sake of the “unity project”.

No one should underestimate the enormous energy and manipulation it must have required to persuade the IRA army council and Sinn Féin activists that sharing power with unionists, in Stormont, with a unionist First Minister, while Ireland remained partitioned, was the right strategic move.

Kane believes Unionist failure to understand Adams and his project was:

…almost certainly, self-defeating for unionism. They should have understood how he thought – and what he was doing – rather than simply focused on his past and his links with the IRA.

They needed to deconstruct his strategy and produce coherent counterattacks.

Their loathing of him helped him with his own support base, of course, which – as they did against the relentless media attacks – rallied to him time after time. It’s almost as if he gathered strength from the loathing of his enemies.

All that matters to Adams now is his legacy. Is Irish unity more likely because of his efforts since the 1960s? No. The IRA did nothing for equality and civil rights that couldn’t have been done (indeed, was done) by peaceful means and political pressure.

The dynamics of a unity debate – which was always coming because of demographic shifts since the 1960s – was irredeemably soured by the IRA terror campaign.

The relationship between unionism and republicanism has grown increasingly toxic: and Adams must take some responsibility for that.

It’s also worth watching the long piece on Adams’ career on RTE Prime Time.

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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