​I try to avoid thinking about Gerry Adams. I have a cheerful disposition that I don’t wish to sour, but sometimes he’s hard to avoid.

Published: 20 February 2024

I’ve met many IRA supporters who shared his politics, but none repelled me in the way he’s been doing for decades.

Every time I see or read him, what turns my stomach most is his self-righteousness, exacerbated by his unctuousness, of which my favourite definition is “having, revealing, or marked by a smug, ingratiating, and false earnestness or spirituality”.

You don’t get humility from Adams. He may regret, but he has done nothing to apologise for. He is all that is wise and caring and he was never in the IRA.

But all of a sudden he’s under quite a bit of pressure, what with among other unwelcome developments a worrying legal challenge, the emergence centre stage once more of the murdered and disappeared Jean McConville, and an onslaught from Palestinian supporters who are outraged that this champion of the oppressed and down-trodden thinks Sinn Fein should visit the White House and shake hands with Israel-supporting Joe Biden.

Last month, a high court judge ruled that three victims of IRA bombings in London (1973, Old Bailey and 1996, Docklands) and Manchester (1996, Arndale shopping centre) can sue Adams in a personal capacity for £1 nominal damages, alleging he “acted with others in furtherance of a common design to bomb the British mainland”, and was with others, “directly responsible” in his various IRA roles for decisions to plant the bombs.

Then there’s the unwelcome news that this year should definitely see Disney stream a nine-episode drama about the life and after-life of Jean McConville, based on the best-selling Say Nothing: A True Story of Murder and Memory in Northern Ireland by the American journalist Patrick Radden Keefe, in which Gerry Adams is a central player, and not in a good way.

Adams didn’t mention that in ‘Search for Disappeared deserves support of all’, his Andersonstown News column last week.

“In the 1970s,” he explained, “the IRA shot dead and secretly buried a number of people. This is a terrible legacy of that period of our history. The families of those killed have suffered a grievous injustice. Republicans, including the IRA, recognise and have acknowledged this fact. What happened was wrong and unjustifiable.”

And there was much guff about the hard work he and the late Father Alec Reid (his chaplain in all but name) put into having the remains of the Disappeared uncovered.

It would seem that no expense (by the British taxpayer) was spared.

“I want to commend all of the families who have campaigned with dignity for many years to locate the remains of their loved ones. I also want to acknowledge once again the grave injustice inflicted upon them and to express my deep regret about this.”

He did not mention the allegations from the likes of Brendan Hughes and Dolours Price discussed in Keefe’s book — that Adams ordered the murder and disappearance of McConville.

“Brendan is telling lies,” Adams told the BBC in 2013. “I had no act or part to play in the abduction, killing or burial of Jean McConville or any of the others.”

Now there’s the trouble about Gaza.

Palestine has been Adams’s favourite cause abroad since he got bored with Latin American dictators. It’s straightforward. The horrors of October 7, like the constant threats to Israel’s survival, are ignored.

Unfortunately, much though Palestinian supporters may appreciate the support of hundreds of children with photos of dead children marching in Belfast with “Gaels Against Genocide in Gaza”, there is rage that Mary Lou McDonald is taking a delegation to the White House. Critics are not mollified by Adams’s and her assurances that the purpose is to discuss dialogue and peace with Joe Biden. Even the SLDP won’t go.

One critic in The New Arab denounced Sinn Fein for “backpeddling on Palestine”, “booklicking” the United States and choosing Irish-American money over “a people it has stood with for decades”.

Truly, as Claudius observed in Hamlet, “When troubles come, they come not single spies but in battalions.”

I’m enjoying this. Recently I came across an article in which Eamonn Mallie said that David Trimble once described Adams to him as the “awfullest human being I have ever known”.

Aye, I thought, another sound judgement from my late and lamented old friend David.

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