Admire or detest him, Adams is probably the most important figure in Irish politics over the past half centuryby Andy Pollak / October 11, 2017 / Leave a comment
Published in November 2017 issue of Prospect Magazine
Admire or detest him, Gerry Adams is probably the most important figure in Irish politics over the past half century. During that time he has led the IRA from being one of the world’s most effective terrorist groups to the point where its political wing, Sinn Féin, is close to becoming the largest party in Northern Ireland and probably only a year or two from entering government in the Republic.
One day, probably after his death, someone will write a good biography of Adams. This is not that book. O’Doherty makes a valiant effort, but his over-reliance on disillusioned republicans and secondary sources lets him down. He throws little new light on the key questions. Was Adams a member of the IRA, something he has always denied? O’Doherty quotes leading republicans who suggest he was a “sender outer” rather than an operator. The Northern Ireland Chief Justice, Lord Lowry, believed in 1978 that there was no basis for prosecuting him for IRA membership. Similarly what role, if any, did he play in the IRA’s murder of mother of 10, Jean McConville? Again the evidence is contradictory.
O’Doherty argues convincingly that Adams’s core belief is that Northern Ireland is unreformable as a self-governing entity because unionists will not treat nationalists equally. Attempting to share power is therefore doomed, and the only solution is a referendum (or referenda) leading to Irish unity. Such an analysis bodes ill for any return to the arrangements so painstakingly pieced together in the 1998 Good Friday Agreement.
Gerry Adams: An Unauthorised Life is by Malachi O’Doherty (Faber & Faber, £14.99)