Belfast Telegraph

Ruth Dudley Edwards: Thrown by the election result, Gerry Adams realises he has painted himself into a corner

SF leader’s response to the new political reality is ill-thought-out and vacillating, writes Ruth Dudley Edwards

Well, I finally found something on which I agree unreservedly with Gerry Adams. We liked Animal, who came to fame in the 1970s TV puppet comedy series The Muppet Show.

However, that was a very long time ago and I have moved on, but at the general election count in Belfast’s Titanic Exhibition Centre, Mr Adams was demonstrating his enduring loyalty by wearing the character’s image on his pink fluorescent novelty socks.

When he flashed them on a tweet that night (“More snappers taking pics of my socks than candidates Not much else doing. Counts continuing. By the way it’s ‘Animal’. ‘Beware the Beast’”), it wasn’t just a sign that he was attention-seeking. 

It was a signal that he was keeping his options open in case election results required him to show a human rather than threatening side.

When in the 1980s I began to know Northern Ireland politicians well, I passed through the stage of being beguiled by nationalist charm and repelled by unionist truculence until I reached the conclusion that, when you looked at substance rather than style, unionists were frequently nicer than they seemed and nationalists the opposite.

Republicans, of course, were a different matter. 

While there are individual Sinn Fein supporters for whom I have a reluctant liking, I have nothing but contempt for the leadership of the cult which Adams, Martin McGuinness and their comrades fashioned out of their murder machine.

I’ve known a fair few Protestant bigots, but what made Sinn Fein so dreadful was the way in which it taught its supporters to hate their neighbours by wildly exaggerating historical wrongs, demonising their victims, and embracing all the propaganda techniques of George Orwell’s Ministry of Truth in 1984. 

Earlier this month I was at University College London, where I was one of 50 readers of a start-to-finish filmed live reading of 1984, revisiting yet again a book about a party that “seeks power entirely for its own sake. It is not interested in the good of others; it is interested solely in power”.

This is a wonderful novel that every politically curious person in Northern Ireland should read and reread as they struggle to understand how Sinn Fein can successfully lie and lie and lie and twist reality.

One of Orwell’s inventions was “Newspeak”, which, when applied to a party member, meant a “loyal willingness to say that black is white when Party discipline demands this”.

But “blackwhite” also required the ability “to believe that black is white, and, more, to know that black is white, and to forget that one has ever believed the contrary”.

It involves slavish devotion to party leader Big Brother. 

“Blackwhite,” explained Orwell, “demands a continuous alteration of the past, made possible by the system of thought which really embraces all the rest, and which is known in Newspeak as doublethink”.

“Doublethink is basically the power of holding two contradictory beliefs in one’s mind simultaneously, and accepting both of them.”

Remind you of anyone?

Mick Fealty, the founder of the invaluable blogsite sluggerotoole.com, has pointed out that since, to Sinn Fein’s consternation, the DUP matters in Westminster and is playing its cards well, Mr Adams “is doing his speaking from both corners of the mouth now even in the one statement”. He said “We don’t believe that any deal between the DUP here and the English Tories will be good for the people here.” And also that: “We never turn up our nose at good deeds. Let’s wait until we see what sort of deal is done.”

Annoying all but the faithful by refusing to participate in either Stormont or Westminster, Mr Adams is suffering from the loss of the smarter and wiser Mr McGuinness. Will he be intransigent or co-operative? “Gerry reminds me of a man standing trapped in the corner of a room looking at the job he has done painting the floor with slow-drying paint,” was one Slugger comment. 

Even with the help of his novelty socks, he’ll have trouble coming well out of this one. 

  • Ruth Dudley Edwards was shortlisted for the Orwell Prize for her book, The Seven: The Lives And Legacies Of The Founding Fathers Of The Irish Republic

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