April 13, 2015

David Remnick - Gerry Adams has no right to the comparison with Mandela (1994)

Gerry Adams, by Martin Rowson
David Remnick visited troubled and torn Belfast in the early 1990s. He wrote about his experience and interpretation in the New Yorker, published in April 1994. You can read Remnick's account of his meeting with Gerry Adams in his Sinn Fein office in early 1990s Belfast here. It was an incredibly broad and detailed account of life in Belfast and Northern Ireland at the time. A note on how Belfast was very serene outside of the hotspots, how loyalist and republican paramilitaries are simply base gangs like in any other city; he painted a picture from his trip to Paisley's church, Martyr's Memorial; told us about Gerry Adams's hallowed republican forbears; and retold us about his ramble in the greens of outer Belfast with Michael Longley. One of the aspects of the long essay that most hit me was when David Remnick said that Adams no right to the comparison with Mandela or Arafat:

"More than once, it was suggested that his role in Northern Ireland was like that of Mandela in South Africa, or Arafat in the Middle East, and Adams, for his part, accepted the mantle: the reasonable man, the man of peace. He has no right to the comparison. Mandela and Arafat lead majority movements and have finally renounced terrorism. [Gerry] Adams does neither."
Fintan O'Toole has previously countered the idea that Martin McGuinness is comparable to Nelson Mandela. See here.

That all said, Ed Moloney has repeatedly said that Gerry Adams "deserved a share of the Nobel Peace Prize given to John Hume and David Trimble; in fact deserved it more than they." That was said in October 2014, and he said the same thing back in 2002 here.

Further, Remnick's rebuttal was made in 1994. Time has passed, Adams has mollified further and Americans have raised views on life and politics in Northern Ireland. Their view is that Ireland is settled.

That is why Patrick Radden Keffe, writing in March 2015 in the New Yorker about the murder of Jean McConville, was so shocked at the state of Belfast and continuing tensions and hostilities.

My wish then is this, for Remnick to go full circle, to return to Belfast and experience, live and touch live here as it is and write about it. Would he stand by his position that the Adams-Mandela parallel is false? Perhaps not.

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