Gerry Adams a liability to Sinn Fein but ego will not let him relinquish post
Gerry Adams probably thought he was being clever when he finally admitted last week that "it isn't a question of if I will step down, it's a question of when".
The Sinn Fein president even added mysteriously that "we have a plan." That will stop the endless speculation about my leadership, he must've hoped.
Unfortunately for his party, they failed to take into account the recurring tendency of their Glorious Leader's past to catch up with him. The latest spanner in the works came on BBC's Spotlight on Tuesday, which claimed that Adams personally sanctioned the murder of fellow party veteran Denis Donaldson, who was gunned down by the Provisional IRA at his home in Co Donegal in 2006 after being unmasked as a British spy.
That allegation cannot be verified, of course; there's a case to be made that it would have been wiser to keep Adams out of the loop in that nasty episode, never mind giving him "the final say".
But it doesn't matter if the story is true or not. What matters is that it's another reminder of his bloody history as a senior member of the republican movement.
Even if he had no hand or part in Donaldson's death, Adams has been linked over the years to many equally brutal acts by the IRA, not least the disappearance, torture and secret burial of Protestant mother of 10 Jean McConville.
These claims don't come from nowhere. They don't happen by accident. They're a direct consequence of the man that he is and the life that he has lived.
Adams, predictably, reacted with fury. He always does on realising that his word counts for little these days. As if on cue, he even tried the old trick of saying the matter is "in the hands of my solicitor" and threatening that he's "not reluctant to sue".
But you are, Gerry, you really are. In fact, considering everything that's been said about him down the years, Adams must be one of the people in public life who's been most reluctant to sue his accusers.
He issues vague threats of legal action, but threats are where it ends, because Adams knows full well that, if he does make good on those threats, he would immediately throw himself open to being cross examined in the witness stand about his past - and, if there's one thing Gerry Adams doesn't like, it's being made to answer uncomfortable questions. The "I was never in the IRA" routine might work on TV, but it wouldn't cut much ice in a court room.
So he's reduced instead to ranting and complaining on the airwaves, and issuing statements through official Sinn Fein party channels, as they run after him, faithfully cleaning up his mess, like an embarrassed dog owner with a pooper scooper.
They might lash out petulantly and make excuses and blame "spooks" for being behind every lurid allegation, but when your party leader has to publicly deny authorising the murder of a colleague who'd become inconvenient - and people still don't believe him when he does - then you have a problem.
And when he has to battle equally dramatic claims every few months, then you have a massive problem.
No other party would stand for it, but Sinn Fein activists seem to regard their loyalty to this man as a badge of honour, even as they know they have zero chance of attaining office in the Republic whilst Adams remains the public face of the party. That they keep letting him get away with it is reminiscent more of a Third World dictatorship with tanks at its back rather than a healthy modern democratic party; just as his refusal to step aside and let someone younger and cleaner take over shows his own brazen contempt for most ordinary people's revulsion at the shameful past that his name and face will always represent.
What kind of monstrous ego makes a man cling on to his position year after year, when he's a liability to everyone around him and the cause he claims to love?
Vanity, thy name is Gerry.