Belfast Telegraph

Why Gerry’s not a messiah in spite of his preaching

By Lindy McDowell

And there gathered before the screen a great multitude thirsting for enlightenment. “Master”, they cried, “when is it right to forgive those who trespass against us?”

And verily Gerry led them on a journey. For 40 days and 40 nights (well, maybe less — but it seemed like that at times) he wandered through the land of Israel visiting temples and holy places and telling parables about Long Kesh and how he himself had been crucified by a ruling elite

Channel 4’s much hyped offering on the Bible (as interpreted this week by Rev G Adams) was most marked by the lack of impact it made.

Rather than offence and outrage, the average response to Gerry’s typically egocentric look at the life and death of Jesus was — yawn. Gerry may be preachy. But he’s no Jesse Jackson.

There was some cross-referencing to himself and Christ. (Gerry Adams — the man who put the “me” in Messiah.) He talked about his “own lights” (whatever that might mean) and about his religious views “percolating” through his political thinking.

Try as I might to keep up I found myself inexorably slipping off to Dancing on Ice — a programme I don’t even like.

By comparison the efforts of Peggy Mitchell’s girl from EastEnders trying to avoid smacking her reconstructed nose off the rink during some particularly show-offy skating manoeuvre was compelling stuff.

The most moving moment of the Bible show actually came in the interview with Alan McBride who lost his wife and father-in-law in the Shankill bombing.

Alan’s expression of sympathy for the mother of bomber Thomas Begley was deeply touching stuff. His plain speaking much more human and heartfelt than the stiff, stilted and jargonised Gerry.

With Mr Adams — no self doubt there. Nor, apparently, any heart searching guilt about his past.

But is there a growing possibility of that past coming back to bite him? Recent claims by Provo bomber Dolours Price about some of the Disappeared and about her role and the role of others involved at that time begin to throw new light on one of the darker episodes in Northern Ireland’s past.

Price is said to be troubled by guilt about what happened back then. It is not a phrase we usually associate with what the paramilitary community like to term “former combatants”.

Troubled by guilt

But when you think about it there must be many, many former combatants out there on both sides who saw and did things which in the wee, small hours still return to haunt their minds.

The surprise is not that they might want to unburden themselves. But that, hitherto, very few seemingly have.

Then again — maybe not such a surprise.

Until recently, fully armed paramilitary armies would have ensured the speaking out and quest for unburdening would be kept to an absolute minimum. Could that now change?

The paramilitary foot soldiers may well resent, for example, the fact that the hierarchies within the movements (on all sides) have come out of the Troubles relatively unscathed and prosperous.

Gerry got paid £10,000 for his Channel 4 appearance. Nice work for those who can get it. And he’s not alone in doing well post-conflict. Does this rankle with those further down the food chain, both republican and loyalist, who feel left behind by the process and haunted by what came before?

You don’t have to be particularly religious, just human, to see how those troubled by the past might well feel a desire and a need now for their own, more public, soul searching.

For an unholy resurrection — to use a Biblical term — of long-buried secrets.

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