November 24, 2015

Martin McGuinness - From unbending hardliner, to the humanised andacceptable face of republicanism

Northern Ireland politicians from the early 1990s, by Gerald Scarfe for the New Yorker
In present Northern Ireland, Martin McGuinness is viewed as the more moderate and conciliatory politician compared with the Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams. Yet a quick down historical accounts and observations show that the reality is the inverse. As is often the case in Northern Ireland, perception is incongruent to fact. Northern Ireland poet Nick Laird wrote:
"Growing up in Cookstown in County Tyrone, I would occasionally wonder what it would be like to be Martin McGuinness’s son. He was infamous for being Sinn Féin’s number two, and for being the officer commanding of the Derry brigade of the IRA, a position he assumed, as he recently admitted, in February 1972."

To get an idea of the unreformed and unbending McGuinness, take a look at his 1986 Ard Fheis speech here

David Remnick wrote in 1994 in the New Yorker:
"When one considers… Martin McGuinness, of Londonderry… Adams seems far more flexible, far more capable of making the leap of faith and the compromises necessary to bring about a peace."
David Remnick, as well as Fintan O'Toole, wrote that Gerry Adams has no right to the comparison with Mandela. Eamonn Mallie wrote:
"Martin McGuinness has won a certain affection in the hearts of the wider community both catholic and Protestant on the island of Ireland despite his admission to his past. This is not so in the case of Gerry Adams."
Newton Emerson said in 2013:
"The people of Northern Ireland respond well to leaders who humanise themselves, however implausibly, as Martin McGuinness and Ian Paisley proved and Gerry Adams is still struggling to prove."
Ed Moloney wrote:
"Throughout the years of the peace process Martin McGuinness played the role of the hard military man, a role that helped to re-assure the IRA grassroots that the process would not lead to a sellout. The implication is that the rank and file did not fully trust Gerry Adams but had confidence in Martin McGuinness."
He also said:
"Martin McGuinness suffered none of the military shortcomings of Gerry Adams and was well known throughout the IRA as an enthusiastic operator, always ready and willing for action."
Rural defenders like Fergus of the East Tyrone brigade said:
"If Adams or his allies came up with a deal with the Brits you could never really trust it. But if Martin endorses it, then there must be something in it. The army [IRA] trust Martin. If anyone can sell them a deal, then he can."
Kevin Toolis said in 'Rebel Hearts':
"In republican terms, McGuinness could not be the source of potential betrayal. As the epitome of the armed struggle, McGuinness's commitment to the IRA and the politics of the gun was unchallengeable. He has remained distant from and immune to the criticism levelled at Adams's coterie of Belfast Sinn Fein advisers that they were politicians masquerading as republicans and hence potential sell-outs."
Yet Newton Emerson said:
"Martin McGuinness said he has “never put a date” on a united Ireland. This was a fairly audacious claim, given that he is on record repeatedly promising a united Ireland by 2016. Several of those predictions received significant media coverage, notably McGuinness’s statement nine days before the 2003 assembly election that: “Gerry Adams has said 2016 and I think that is achievable.” Of course, Adams says a lot of things that Martin has to go along with."


Ed Moloney explained how it worked:
"Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness played roles in the development and selling of the peace process that was a little akin to Mutt and Jeff, the good cop, bad cop routine. 
Adams was the good cop, whose role was to interact with John Hume and be the public face of diplomacy in dealings with governments, the White House and so on. 
McGuinness’ role, a suitable one since he had the active service record and Adams didn’t, was to be the bad cop, to reassure the IRA grassroots that there would be no sell out while he was running Northern Command and that if Martin backed the peace process then there was nothing to be worried about. 
And it worked perfectly, well almost so. Dissident opposition to the Adams-McGuinness strategy did emerge but it came in two waves and because of that the strategy triumphed. 
The first was led by people like Michael McKevitt, the IRA Quarter-Master General who was close enough to events and the major players to get suspicious early on about the real deal that was coming down the pike. But his effort to overthrow Adams was frustrated and then when he broke off to form the Real IRA and made common cause with the INLA and the Continuity IRA against the Adams-McGuinness strategy, the venture was torpedoed by the Omagh bomb. 
The next wave came many years later and really didn’t gather steam until the Provos agreed to accept and recognise the PSNI in the wake of the St Andrews’ Agreement which brought them into government with Ian Paisley and the DUP. The people involved in this wave were those who had ignored McKevitt’s warnings, and went along with the leadership’s claim that he was just an ambitious malcontent. They chose to stay within the bosom of the Provos, preferring to believe Martin McGuinness’s soothing words rather than the reality unfolding all around them. But when Martin & Co. agreed to back the PSNI they could deny the reality no longer. 
Their determination to go back to war appears therefore to be fueled less by any sophisticated plan to destabilize Sinn Fein or the peace deal and more by their anger at being misled and tricked by the Provo leadership, especially the bad cop, Martin McGuinness. They were always wary of Gerry Adams. He was ever the crafty politician, never to be trusted. But Martin was one of their own. How could he lie so treacherously, they cried? 
And so their anger at McGuinness is expressed in the killing of Ronan Kerr. Except that’s not the full truth either. The people they’re really angry at are themselves, for being so stupid, except they won’t admit as much. That’s why they’ll keep on planting “up and unders” and why others like Ronan Kerr will die. And it is why they’re not really a threat and why the peace process will likely survive everything they throw at it."

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