The appalling vista of two elections

By Jude Collins

Any day now I’m expecting to see a headline saying ‘Kitchen sink narrowly misses Gerry Adams’. That’s about the only thing the media, north and south, haven’t thrown at him. Bloody Friday, Robert McCartney, the Hunger Strike, the Disappeared, his brother, the Northern Bank robbery, economic illiteracy...It’s been going on for so long, it makes you wonder why the Sinn Féin leader has gone out of his way to see that he’s on the electoral roll in County Louth. ‘I wanted to be able to vote for myself’ he said. Mistake, Gerry. Any day now, you’re going to come under fire for your shamelessness in voting for someone so wicked.

The one thing all these charges of wickedness share is an absence of evidence. The latest revelations coming out of Wikileaks is presented as proof that Adams and Sinn Féin were planning the Northern Bank robbery while talking to Fianna Fail. What proof? American diplomats, we’re told, believed the south’s Justice Depertment had solid evidence Adams knew about the plans to rob the Northern Bank... Um, chaps. Hate to say it but, er, – that’s not evidence. That’s this-man-I-know-told-a-man-I know-that-he-was-certain talk. In fact it’s inconceivable that if the Justice Department did have solid evidence showing Adams involvement in the Northern Bank raid, they wouldn’t have produced it and hauled him before the courts.

The same applies to the other charges – Bloody Friday, McCartney, the Hunger Strike, etc. In all cases there’s an assumption that Adams MUST have been involved. But no proof. And certainly no proof that he was involved in the incriminating, career-busting way his critics yearn for.

Malachi O’Doherty, in a piece in the Belfast Telegraph, says that the truth is, people in the north, because of his peace process contribution, don’t care, but that people in the south, with less peace process focus, may well damn him. As is often the case, Malachi’s half-right. People here don’t care...No, that’s not the right word – they don’t mind if Adams was involved in the IRA. For many more, involvement would be seen as a badge of honour. Adams himself has always been forthright in his support for the IRA. So what’s the big difference if he says “I wholeheartedly support the IRA in their struggle” or he says “I was a member of the IRA during their struggle”? Not a lot. The media love grabbing it between their teeth and shaking it about, but that’s it.

No, there are two reasons why the kitchen sink is in danger of being ripped out and hurled in Adams’s direction. The first is that an election will take place in the south of Ireland inside the next couple of months, and Sinn Féin look like they’ve already doubled their support south of the border. The second reason is that an election will take place in the north of Ireland in five months’ time, and Sinn Féin could well emerge as the largest single party. For some politicians and pundits, that’s an appalling vista X 2.

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