Belfast Telegraph

Ruth Dudley Edwards: As any Muppet can tell you, Gerry Adams - It isn't easy being green

By Ruth Dudley Edwards

Less than three weeks ago, at the Belfast election count, Gerry Adams was flashing novelty socks featuring Animal, the demented hairy orange drummer from The Muppet Show.

This week he should have adorned his ankles with Kermit the Frog from the same show, whom you may remember singing a ­wistful song called It Isn't Easy Being Green.

For Mr Adams' cunning plans have been badly damaged by what Prime Minister Harold Macmillan famously described as "events, dear boy, events".

It all seemed to be going so well, for though Martin McGuinness's death had been a personal tragedy for Mr Adams and the party, they had certainly turned it to their advantage. With the prospect of an imminent change of government and possibly an election in the Republic, bailing out of the Northern Ireland Executive with the help of a sad ­letter of resignation from McGuinness had been a prudent move.

Read More: Demographics are shifting towards a united Ireland

Revealed: How many UUP voters support talks about DUP merger? 

It placated hardliners who had thought Sinn Fein too accommodating in government while also removing ammunition from those nasty people on the southern left who kept tactlessly reminding Sinn Fein that, when in government in Northern Ireland, they had implemented welfare cuts.

It had been particularly smart to use the bogus issue of the RHI scandal, and no one could fault McGuinness's more-in-sorrow-than-in-anger performance when he last spoke to camera. Few were listening to those who pointed out that it was breathtakingly cynical for the people whose organisation had robbed the Northern Bank of £26.5million only 12 years previously to bleat piously about corruption.

The Assembly election was beautifully timed to give republican activists something to occupy their idle hands, give Sinn Fein the benefit of the sympathy vote and keep away from the polls DUP supporters who had been shocked by the RHI revelations.

It was hardly surprising that there was much noisy gloating when nationalists so successfully narrowed the gap with unionists and demanded Arlene Foster's head on a plate, as well as much else, as the price of going back into government.

And then Theresa May called a snap election, unionists' survival mechanisms kicked in, and a tribal battle saw the UUP and the SDLP carried off the field and the DUP with 10 seats to Sinn Fein's seven.

However, a hung Parliament thrust into the foreground the now embarrassing issue of abstentionism, which Sinn Fein had seen off during the campaign on the grounds that taking seats at Westminster was a waste of time.

They prayed that no deal would be done with the DUP and ended up utterly wrong-footed, since apart from anything else, Mrs Foster and her colleagues had the sense to ask for goodies for all the people of Northern Ireland and a Brexit in the interests of the island of Ireland.

Waffle and weasel words were all Sinn Fein spokespeople could offer following the announcement of a confidence and supply arrangement in exchange for bags of gold which, if not distributed by a new Executive, would be at the discretion of Secretary of State James Brokenshire.

With Mrs Foster riding high, and no RHI smoking gun to be seen, few reasonable people thought she should be expected to step aside for the many months the investigation will take. And Simon Coveney, who from the Sinn Fein perspective was a welcome replacement for the much less green Charlie Flanagan at the Department of Foreign Affairs, put the boot in by saying: "An enhanced Northern Ireland voice articulating an agreed devolved government position could see more effective and inclusive representation of the unique circumstances of Northern Ireland at Westminster."

Mr Adams must have been dwelling on the tantalising possibility that if the Conservative government fell, his friend Jeremy Corbyn might have offered glittering rewards to Sinn Fein to take their seats and support a minority Labour government.

But then yesterday this newspaper revealed an opinion poll showing that would be unacceptable to a majority of their supporters.

And what's more, unless Mr Adams is a bigger fool than I take him for, he must realise that a Corbyn government would almost certainly be a short-lived disaster.

It's not easy being Gerry Adams.

Belfast Telegraph

Popular

From Belfast Telegraph