Subscribe to the Irish News




Book Reviews
& Book Forum

Search / Archive
Back to 10/96





A shy retiring Gerry good for Irish unity

(Newton Emerson, Irish News)

It is the question I always find myself asking when I head south but last weekend, speeding down the new Portlaoise motorway past the manicured tram lines and glittering business parks of outer Dublin, that question seemed more pressing then ever.

Would a united Ireland really be so bad?

After all it is only 12 years away. The Republic does feel like a foreign country to me, albeit no more foreign than Canada – and in Canada they really do need two languages on the road signs so perhaps even that is an exaggeration.

Yet all countries are artificial constructs and all national identities are fluid – so maybe I can become an Irishman.

But then the prospect dissolves, as it always does, into the unacceptable face of that future and I say no, never, never – or at least not until Gerry Adams has shuffled off this mortal coil.

It is a commonplace observation that Ian Paisley has greatly advanced the cause of Irish unity but it is rarely mentioned that Gerry Adams has put that same cause back 100 years.

This is surprising, for hiding in the suburbs still is a whole generation that can confirm it.

From partition until the Troubles broke out many Protestants considered a united Ireland to be inevitable in the medium term and I am old enough to recall relatives and even teachers saying so without much concern.

For those reaching adulthood prior to the late 1960s all objections to a united Ireland lay south of the border and all were on the wane. Taoiseach Lemass was clearly reasonable, Archbishop McQuaid was clearly senile and in any case the Republic was so hopelessly poor that unity would be more a case of them joining us rather than vice versa.

Such a view was held quietly by a minority but it was a large – and largely establishment – minority who could have easily grown in confidence and influence.

These are the people who Ian Paisley really feared then and against whom the bitterest DUP rhetoric is still aimed today.

But Paisley only confirmed their worst suspicions – it was Adams who conjured up their worst nightmare.

His grubby little ethnic war betrayed those Protestants who true republicanism might have persuaded, then relentlessly drove that very class of people to the edge of extinction.

It has been years since I have met such a person.

Protestants can not even speak of a united Ireland today without fear of dishonouring their dead – and running like a black thread through all those decades of death, denial, dismissal and deceit is Gerry Adams, provisionalism personified, our constant reminder.

Those are the thin lips that gave the orders, those are the cold eyes that never cried.

Here come some more of the cynical phrases that curtly explain why everyone died.

Is it the worse for his insufferable smugness?

This is not a trivial question.

Those unionists who voted 'Yes' in 1998 did not ask for an apology or expect to be asked for forgiveness – but neither did they expect to be asked for an apology or to be offered forgiveness.

When Gerry Adams summons the cameras for another pompous little lecture, full of pained looks, wronged righteousness and shameless self-comparisons to Nelson Mandela, does he care that his audience includes the blamelessly bereaved?

Does he realise that bereavement is hereditary, that he will be a hate figure to children still unborn?

Does he sense his goal slipping further away?

Apparently not: Gerry clearly thinks he is on a roll and that Irish unity is within his personal gift.

He takes solace from Sinn Féin's remarkable success in the Republic and his own elevation to Ireland's most popular politician.

But Gerry's all-Ireland cult is as counterproductive to the cause as Gerry's all-Ireland army – once again Protestants look south with growing unease.

Two weeks ago An Phoblacht carried an article about the former Chilean dictator General Augusto Pinochet.

The piece was angry, bitter, gloating and utterly oblivious to its own strange irony.

It criticised Pinochet for his brutality, his murders and his abductions during the 1970s and 1980s.

It accused him of becoming involved since those troubled times in drug-dealing, tax evasion and organised crime.

"What he thought would be a peaceful and enjoyable retirement has turned into a nightmarish chase through the courts by the relatives of those who were 'disappeared' and murdered," the party rag said.

Pinochet ordered the murder and disappearance of 3,000 people. This, not Nelson Mandela, is who Gerry Adams should compare himself to and why he should start considering his own retirement. For while it is inconceivable that Catholics will ever agree to live again under unionist control, it is equally inconceivable that Protestants will ever agree to an Ireland over which their very own Pinochet might loom.

Time for peace, Gerry?

Time to go.

October 8, 2004

Newton Emerson is editor of the satirical website Portadown News.

This article appeared first in the October 7, 2004 edition of the Irish News.

This article appears thanks to the Irish News. Subscribe to the Irish News