Is Gerry after glory or just early retirement?
Gerry Adams’ decision to seek election to the Dail may be prompted by the fact that he no longer has a leading role in the province, says Malachi O’Doherty
On first sight it is a demotion. The leader of a political party that is in government in the North, the man with the power to appoint nearly half the ministers in an Executive, who could himself take the Deputy First Minister’s portfolio, if he wanted it, or Education or Regional Development, has decided that he has more to contribute as a TD for a minority party in the Dail.
Gerry Adams and his party are happy to present his shift as a master stroke, clear evidence that the old revolutionary leader still has some spunk.
He’s going to rally the people at a time of economic crisis and become the figurehead for a populist rejection of Irish government policy.
All this at a time when the economy is on the brink of collapse and the European Union is intimating its willingness to slip the country nearly €80bn to tide it over the bad patch.
Well, this means either that Sinn Fein has a plan to reverse the damage or that Gerry has been kicked out of Stormont by Martin McGuinness and sent into a more dignified and graded retirement than some of his other former comrades got.
And how must it look in Co Louth, where there is already a party machine?
Will they see this as head office sending down the top man to tighten up the structures and prepare for electoral battle?
Or will it be seen as the constituency being used as a retirement home for a hapless nominal leader with little to amuse him?
Ironically the current incumbent, Arthur Morgan, is pulling out because he feels that, at 56, he has to get on with his life and business activities.
But if Arthur thinks he would be too old for business at 62, the age he would be after another spell in the Dail, how can he think that Gerry, at the same age, is a galvanising force in Irish politics?
There are a lot of reasons why Gerry should not be doing this, should particularly not be doing it in Louth and why voters should be wary of him.
He has never shown much grasp of the economy.
And he might have done worse, before making this jump, than to talk to George Lee, a man we don’t hear much of these days. George was the RTE Economics Correspondent who took a seat in the Dail to lend his expertise at a time of crisis.
He resigned again after a few months.
What’s Gerry's record down there? It’s that he banjaxed EC treaties by campaigning for No votes in referenda. People might not want to be reminded of that when the begging bowl is being taken round Brussels.
OK, Gerry will have a party machine behind him, but he won’t make a difference to government policy and can only potentially make an impact as a populist street leader.
But he is not a boy of 25. God forbid that he should be thinking that he can do what he could do then anyway.
The last Adams who was parachuted into Louth is now awaiting a court ruling on whether he might be extradited to the North to face child abuse charges. It is not the sort of family connection that normally endears a constituency to a candidate.
This is the constituency in which Jean McConville’s body was dumped. And that is fresh in people’s minds after a recent RTE documentary in which Gerry’s former comrade Brendan Hughes was heard fitting him up for that killing.
You have to wonder if Belfast has become awfully uncomfortable for Gerry Adams, if Louth is a desirable alternative.
Could it be that the disclosures of Brendan Hughes and Richard O’Rawe have made it a little harder for Gerry to look his neighbours in the face. O’Rawe has made a strong case that he prolonged the Hunger Strikes for political advantage.
Or maybe the chill is in Stormont, where we have seen the absurdity of Gerry as party leader picketing the building with trade unionists while Martin was inside facing up to unpalatable decisions.
But now that he is leaving, can we really imagine him coming back in May next year to nominate the new ministers after the election?
If Gerry has been gently purged, then the evidence of it will be the eclipsing of his favoured ministers in the coming weeks, a reshuffle in the Executive, new faces standing in the next elections.
The appointment of Gerry’s successor for West Belfast might be a clue too.
If the shift is to further integrate the party North and South, then maybe they will give the seat to Mary Lou McDonald.
But either way, this is the last political job for Gerry Adams. The TD-in-waiting for Louth may deny that he aspired to the Irish presidency, but there must have been moments in recent years when he walked tall around the world and thought that the United Nations or some other global organisation would come up with an impressive mission for him.
Could Blair not have come up with some role for a peripatetic peace missionary?
At least old burnt out Unionists get to be Lords. There has to have been something better for Gerry than this.