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The Cost of the Failure of Politicians is Immeasurable

Mick Hall • 28 November 2004

One does not have to be a genius to see that the north of Ireland has not been blessed with political leaders since the Statelet's inception. Firebrands and god botherers have been a plenty, but the real curse of the current period both at a local and, if I can call it this, at ‘national’ level has been longevity. Many of the same bunch who were to the fore of northern politics at the start of the nightmare years remain at the helm today. It was bad enough having to watch Trimble metamorphosis from a Vanguard bigot into a Noble Peace Prize winner (by the way, old Alfred Noble, that prize's founder, must down the years have laughed himself beyond the grave to god knows where, over the absurdity of many of those, who have whilst dripping with innocent blood been awarded his peace gong), but to see Gerry Adams and Ian Paisley dividing up the spoils in the form of an European Union and British taxpayers' Peace Bounty said to be of the value of one billion pounds takes the biscuit. Down the years, they have found themselves more often than not fanning the flames whenever the opportunity arose and in the process divided the two communities to their own advantage. It is enough to make even the strongest stomach wrench. The fact that these men have survived the trials and tribulations of the last thirty odd years, whilst many better men and women did not, bears witness to the fact that the God so many of the north’s people believe in has a very nasty sense of humour.

In almost any other society, politicians that have presided over the nightmare the north of Ireland has experienced during the past thirty-four years would have been long ago consigned to the dustbin of history, as have all the British Prime Ministers who contributed their own fair share of misery to enhance the north’s problems. Yet far from familiarity breeding contempt, the electorate of the north seems to believe the reverse. No matter how inadequate or embittered a northern politician may be — and there are few who can match Paisley on this — they are guaranteed re-election. Take Adams. By most people's standards he has failed those he has led to a startling degree. We are told he concluded way back in the late 1980s that the armed struggle could not be won; indeed he felt it was worse than this, PIRA for a host of differing reasons was all but defeated. As the uncontested head of what he to this day still describes as the Republican family, he failed to bluntly tell them what he really believed.

Did he recommend the PIRA was stood down and its weaponry dumped, did he hell as like! He carried on as before, carrying the coffins of the republican dead, condemning operations that had caused civilian deaths, not by speaking the truth that they must stop as they cannot play any part in achieving Republican goals. No, he said that PIRA should be more careful where it placed its bombs or carried out its assassinations so as to make sure no further civilian deaths occur. He continued to speak in praise of PIRA at republican rallies, calling it the movement’s cutting edge, when in his own head he knew it was a very blunt instrument that could not be re-sharpened.

After such rallies, another generation of young people lined up to join the ranks of the Provos. Did our great leader dissuade them, tell them of his doubts? What type of political leader sends his supporters into battle certain they are doomed to failure? Is it any wonder he denies ever being a member of the IRA? For if he did so [admit his position] he would have some very awkward questions to answer, not only from the British State, but those he had responsibility for, the rank and file volunteers. If Mr Adams had shown a tenth of the courage of those two young volunteers Thomas Begley and Sean Kelly, who walked into the heart of Loyalist Shankill in the belief that they were about to destroy the UFF leadership cadre, and planted the bomb in Frizell’s Fish shop which had such devastating consequences for themselves and both communities, then he might have deserved his place at the top table, but even back then all he could do was utter pious platitudes. If Adams had publicly made known his own position before this event, i.e. the war was lost, may not volunteers like Begley and Kelly never have left home on that and many other fateful days?

Mr Adams will claim he kept his thoughts to himself until he could be assured of taking the movement with him. Perhaps, but many may feel that ensuring his position within an Ireland shorn of the PIRA is a more likely reason. A great or even half decent politician leads and if he cannot take his party/movement in the direction he wishes to go, he resigns from it and leaves politics or forms another political party. Ireland's political landscape is littered with such parties, not least the party founded by Eamon De Valera when he broke from armed Republicanism. If Adams had done so in the 1990s, it is almost certain the vast majority of the political leadership of SF, along with the volunteers of PIRA would have followed him and thus in all probability the rump of PIRA would have gone the same way as RIRA. That he failed to do this speaks volumes about the man. He would rather play with peoples lives than risk his career.

To conclude this depressing tale, what of the future? Well, all is not gloom for the simple reason that we have a new generation of politicians waiting in the wings. Few of them will see violence as a viable option to be used to achieve their political ambitions and one can only be heartened by this fact. For most young Unionists, a democratic level playing field for all the people of the north is an accepted fact. For their Republican equivalents, most understand their communities are far too weary and heartsick of the armed struggle for it to be re-invigorated within a generation and in the main are thankful for it. They realise if Ireland is to be reunited it must be done in an evolutionary, not revolutionary, manner. Honest open politics, enhanced cross community and cross border initiatives, plus a far less adversarial style of politics, all have a part to play. They also realise that they can no longer look upon the ‘Republic of Ireland’ as some foreign bastard State and need to get in there along with their southern comrades and maybe it can become a beacon of light that eventually may one day draw their unionist neighbours to become their fellow citizens within it. Thus for me, the day when this new generation takes the helm from my own generation of failed politicians cannot come soon enough.






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The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent



All censorships exist to prevent any one from challenging current conceptions and existing institutions. All progress is initiated by challenging current conceptions, and executed by supplanting existing institutions. Consequently the first condition of progress is the removal of censorships.
- George Bernard Shaw

Index: Current Articles

28 November 2004

Other Articles From This Issue:

Anthony McIntyre

The Cost of the Failure of Politicians is Immeasurable
Mick Hall

A Provisional Pushover
Tom Luby

Seeing What You Want to See
Eoin O Broin

Puritan Death Ethic: Ronan Bennett’s Havoc, in its third year
Seaghán Ó Murchú

Mairtin O Cadhain
Liam O Ruairc

Please Help Put A Smile On The Faces Of Palestine’s Poorest Children This Christmas
Margaret Quinn

23 November 2004

Dropping the Last Veil
Tommy Gorman

No Place for Silence
Anthony McIntyre

The Vacuum

The Unpopular Front: James T. Farrell then, Margaret Hassan now
Seaghán Ó Murchú

Reflection on an Election
Patrick Hurley

New Work on Perry Anderson
Liam O Ruairc

I, a Collaborator
Dorothy Naor

The Murder of Margaret Hassan
Ghali Hassan

The Orange Order and the KKK
Richard Wallace



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