Sinn Féin’s president increasingly resembles a cranky old uncle of the provo family, seeking to compensate his waning influence by delivering intemperate barrages from the chair in the corner. Unfortunately the authority which Adams does retain is sufficient to ensure that his increasingly intractable tone exerts a baleful influence on the situation at Stormont, as Mark Devenport intimates on his blog.
The most emotive of Adams’ remarks is of course that which likened unionists to Afrikaners, a statement which falls short of comparisons Mary McAleese and Father Reid drew between unionists and Nazis, but is clearly pregnant with implication that nationalists suffered something comparable to apartheid in Northern Ireland. Whilst it is clearly intended to offend, Adams’ ‘Afrikaner’ jibe is merely indicative of the objectionable tone which he is cultivating especially keenly at the moment. The richest irony and plummiest hypocrisy can be savoured elsewhere in Adams’ pudding of a speech.
Take this contention, delivered almost in the same breath in which ‘Mr Pot’ accused unionists of having an ‘Afrikaner wing’ and characterised them as ‘petty, mean-spirited and negative’,
“By working closely with the unionists; by being patient and strategic; by recognising unionist concerns and fears on the one hand, and challenging bigotry and prejudice on the other, it is possible to make progress.”
Working closely with unionists! Sinn Féin has refused to hold an executive meeting with either unionists or fellow nationalists in one hundred and fifty days. If that represents ‘working closely’, one would hardly wish to witness what the party adjudges an intractable approach to represent! If anyone is exhibiting patience in Northern Ireland’s present political impasse, it is the three other executive parties stoically awaiting Sinn Féin’s return to the executive table.
And how can the provisionals expect to challenge bigotry and prejudice on one hand, yet create it on the other? Scarcely a fortnight ago Adams was rejecting the validity of British soldiers marching in Belfast on the basis that it is ‘Ireland’s second city’. He was explicitly repudiating principles of tolerance, diversity and pluriculturalism that day and yet he presumes to challenge bigotry and prejudice now! If Adams wishes to combat bigotry and prejudice he should start by taking lessons from the mayor of Derry City Council.
SF’s president claims his party’s project is about ‘nation building’. I presume that the nation he wishes to build is predicated on a 32 county Irish Republic. If his party is serious about wishing unionists to be part of that nation, it should begin to demonstrate its bona fides and show disinclination to drive every vestige that is perceived as British from this island.
If Sinn Féin cannot stomach aspects of Britishness in Northern Ireland, which it has agreed will remain part of the UK until a majority here decide otherwise, what are the chances that it would tolerate perceived British culture in a 32 county state?