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13 March 2017

Why is it right for Dublin to take nationalist line but not for London to take a unionist one?

Time DUP started to counter some of the waffle Gerry Adams is spreading, says Ruth Dudley Edwards

Gerry Adams claims James Brokenshire is not neutral
Gerry Adams claims James Brokenshire is not neutral

I watched Gerry Adams dissembling on the BBC's Andrew Marr show on Sunday morning and then I read his weekly sermon. The sacrifices I make for Northern Ireland! Here are a few of the questions a watching Martian trying to get to grips with British politics might have asked his English tutor.

Why would the British Government want to dismantle lots of the human rights aspects of some agreement?

If this thing called partition is actually “illegal” as well as “immoral”, why is it allowed to exist in what the Martian had been told was a law-abiding country?

What did the bearded person mean when he said “half-jokingly” that it was better to be threatened by an election than by internment and all sorts of other coercion like “we” used to be?

Since Mr Marr couldn’t be bothered to point out even that partition is legal and recognised to be so in the Good Friday Agreement, and that the reason for coercion was that “we” had been part of an organisation killing and injuring tens of thousands of people, I expect the English tutor said this was the usual tedious, self-righteous, mendacious hogwash one could expect from that particular person.

It wasn’t one of Mr Adams’s better performances, but then he’s not really very bothered about trying to get through to the British public, who loathe him.

His sermon was — as usual — dull, apart from an attack on James Brokenshire, whom Adams would probably say “half- jokingly” has been in his sights for a while.

It isn’t good enough, he wrote, for him “to pose as a neutral guarantor of the Good Friday Agreement or for the Minister for Foreign Affairs Charlie Flanagan to claim that it’s up to the northern parties to do the heavy lifting”.

Mr Brokenshire “is not neutral. He’s partisan and a player, as evidenced in his refusal to fund legacy inquests”.

Why is it right that the Irish Government should be nationalist but wrong for the British Government to be unionist?

For years in the peace process, until southern politicians and the SDLP realised they were — if you’ll forgive the expression — feeding a crocodile, pan-nationalism (which included Irish-America) was all the rage.

That involved presenting a united front to successive British Governments, which in the case of Labour under Tony Blair wasn’t just neutral, but instinctively green in its sympathies.

Like Theresa May, to whom he is close, Mr Brokenshire does not wish to see the break-up of the United Kingdom, which is what you might expect of a Conservative British Cabinet minister.

Mr Adams is intent on trashing Mr Brokenshire’s reputation with Irish nationalists, which is one reason why he’s unhappy with the eminently reasonable and sceptical Mr Flanagan, a long-time opponent of the IRA and Sinn Fein.

Like Mr Brokenshire, Mr Flanagan sees it as his job to be even-handed and to get two recalcitrant sets of people who are paid large salaries to take responsibility for getting Stormont back on track.

They will both resist the attempts of Sinn Fein to get the Taoiseach and the Prime Minister — who are very busy at the moment — to get involved in the negotiations.

But while the DUP is in disarray, Mr Adams’s troops are busy lobbying in the Republic, Brussels, Washington, and possibly even on Mars.

You can be sure they’ll be complaining incessantly about the iniquities of Mr Brokenshire’s concern about the disproportionate attention being given by the legal system to the security forces (reminder: 60% more soldiers and six times more police were killed than killed).

Mr Adams has already got his pal, US Democrat Congressman Richard Neal, to call on President Trump to appoint a special envoy for Northern Ireland.

If, farther down the road, it suits the British and Irish Governments once more to hand knotty negotiations over to an American fall guy, it will be crucial to get the right person for the job.

Sinn Fein hated the tough Mitchell Reiss, who among other achievements forced the party into endorsing policing and justice. It loved Richard Haass, who was bullied and charmed into adopting its agenda.

Is the DUP ready to stop navel-gazing and get lobbying?

Ruth Dudley Edwards’ The Seven: The Lives And Legacies Of The Founding Fathers Of The Irish Republic, was published by Oneworld Publications on March 22.

Ruth Dudley Edwards

© Ruth Dudley Edwards