I'm frequently accused of not liking Gerry Adams... and I cannot really deny the charge
As well as everything else, he’s egotistical, pompous, vain and aggressive, writes Ruth Dudley Edwards
I’m constantly rebuked on social media by Sinn Fein supporters because of what they deem my unfair treatment of Gerry Adams. They demand to know why I focus so much on him and on Sinn Fein and the IRA yet write little about their loyalist counterparts.
It’s simple. Because unionists don’t vote for killers, what remains of paramilitary loyalism is little more than a few hoods.
But because many nationalists do vote for killers, the IRA’s political wing has been successful and the republican movement is still under the direction of a cadre of elderly ex-paramilitaries.
And Gerry Adams, president of Sinn Fein for 34 years, is their front man, and I believe he and his organisation remain a threat to the stability, prosperity and well-being of both parts of Ireland, and that I should keep pointing that out.
Such explanations never satisfy my critics, who refer to put it down to blind hatred or unrequited passion.
Of course commentators have personal views on individuals that they write about.
I freely admit to disliking Gerry Adams in a way I didn’t dislike Martin McGuinness.
Both did terrible things and were malign purveyors of tribal hatred, but Adams’s vanity, egotism, pomposity, sanctimony and aggressiveness made him someone I couldn’t have stood even had he led a blameless life as a lollipop man, whereas I expect I’d have got on fine with McGuinness had he been the genial proprietor of the local butcher’s shop.
But then McGuinness had been brought up in a decent family of moderate nationalists, while Mr Adams was not just republican royalty but claims he had an abusive father.
By the mid-1990s I was used to shaking hands with many people I thought were bad, including McGuinness, yet I felt a visceral dread of having to do so with the vulpine Adams.
I needn’t have worried.
We had only one direct encounter.
In 1999, I accepted an invitation to the West Belfast Festival, knowing I’d probably been asked as proof for sponsorship purposes that they were diverse in their choice of speakers.
I don’t like to brag, but I was by then so hated in republican circles because of what I’d written to expose Sinn Fein’s cynical role in fomenting mayhem over Orange parades, that I was — in the words of my friend Professor Liam Kennedy, exposer of paramilitary cruelty to children — “Superdemon”.
I had the comfort of being on a panel that included the Reverend John Dunlop and Dermot Nesbitt of the UUP, but apart from my escort Henry Robinson, the anti-paramilitary campaigner, I was facing a North Korean type of audience of 800 or so...
I spoke first, and had just caused incredulous laughter by telling a community brainwashed by a constant drip feed of ancient real or imagined grievances that minorities in the United Kingdom were treated better than in most other countries, when Gerry Adams arrived to acclamation.
It was, I knew, a habit of his — like all royals — to arrive after everyone else.
I helpfully repeated for his benefit what I’d said and added that, among their other deficiencies, he and the other republican leaders had let down their supporters by feeding them narrow nationalism and navel-gazing.
Enraged by being challenged in his own backyard, Mr Adams furiously denounced me for having for 30 years been part of a Dublin 4 media clique (which, like Americans, he pronounced “click”) that had silenced the voice of these “misfortunate people”. Riotous applause followed.
Considering I lived in London, had not begun to write about politics until 1993 and was deeply unpopular with the Dublin establishment, I thought this was a bit rich, but I knew that Mr Adams favoured propaganda over truth.
After proceedings ended, to my relief he elected not to grace the hospitality room and I had to be hustled out of the building because feelings were running high. That combination of dissembling and bullying is a modest example of why I have contempt (I don’t do hatred) for Gerry Adams.
But unfortunately he still matters, so I’ll go on paying him close attention.
Ruth Dudley Edwards’s The Faithful Tribe: An Intimate Portrait of the Loyal Institutions, is published by HarperCollins.
Belfast Telegraph Digital