En­ter Gerry Adams ... the King of Chaos

Sinn Fein’s cyn­i­cal em­brac­ing of the ‘equal­ity’ agenda is noth­ing more than a proxy war against union­ists, writes Mike Nes­bitt

Belfast Telegraph - - COMMENT - Mike Nes­bitt is Ul­ster Union­ist MLA for Strang­ford and a for­mer leader of the party

HOW do you think you would re­act if you heard that a union­ist leader — Robin Swann, or Ar­lene Foster, for ex­am­ple — was re­fus­ing to deal with health ser­vice wait­ing lists, or the fund­ing cri­sis in our schools, un­less ev­ery­one else agreed to an Ul­ster-Scots Act? I know what my re­sponse would be — and it wouldn’t be pretty.

Yet, that’s what Sinn Fein are do­ing with their call for a stand­alone Ir­ish Lan­guage Act. At a time when the peo­ple of North­ern Ire­land are crav­ing po­lit­i­cal sta­bil­ity, en­ter Gerry Adams, the King of Chaos, the self­styled spe­cial­ist in “ag­i­ta­tional ac­tiv­i­ties” — not my words, but his from his 1986 book, The Pol­i­tics of Ir­ish Free­dom.

For Gerry Adams, ag­i­ta­tion means that is­sues are not is­sues for their own sake, but in­stru­ments to use like sticks to beat your op­po­nent with. The Ir­ish lan­guage is but the lat­est in a long list.

For ex­am­ple, in 1997 he talked of “scene changes that we have to fo­cus on and de­velop and ex­ploit”. Sinn Fein thrive on be­ing op­por­tunis­tic, al­ways seek­ing to ex­ploit a sit­u­a­tion with the aim of fur­ther­ing the re­pub­li­can cause.

Al­most three years ago, Gerry Adams made one of the most telling com­ments about the cur­rent re­pub­li­can strat­egy. It came dur­ing a party meet­ing in En­niskillen that ended in much pub­lic de­ri­sion for the Sinn Fein pres­i­dent af­ter he swore dur­ing the rant.

But most wor­thy of at­ten­tion was his claim that, “the Tro­jan horse of the en­tire re­pub­li­can strat­egy is to reach out to peo­ple on the ba­sis of equal­ity”.

The orig­i­nal Tro­jan horse, of course, was a weapon of war dressed up as a gift and em­braced by an un­sus­pect­ing en­emy

to their ul­ti­mate ruin.

At the time, his re­marks were brushed off by Sinn Fein rep­re­sen­ta­tives as sim­ply be­ing a demon­stra­tion of the re­pub­li­can com­mit­ment to equal­ity.

How­ever, given Adams’s his­tory, it would be fool­ish not to view it as an­other can­did mo­ment, just like his boast that protests against loyal or­der pa­rades didn’t just hap­pen, but were the prod­uct of years of plan­ning for ag­i­ta­tion — bon­fires are clearly next on the list.

Over the last 18 months, Sinn Fein’s rhetoric around “equal­ity” and a “rights-based ap­proach” has gone into over­drive. At the same time, a par­al­lel cam­paign has stepped up as Sinn Fein in­creas­ingly try to pit union­ism against ev­ery­one else.

This is not only self-serv­ing ma­nip­u­la­tion, but also a to­tal per­ver­sion of so­ci­etal at­ti­tudes in North­ern Ire­land.

The at­tempt to style them­selves as the de­fend­ers of mi­nor­ity rights is a shal­low at­tempt to cover up for their stut­ter­ing po­lit­i­cal project.

Is­sues around rights and equal­ity are in­creas­ingly be­ing used by Sinn Fein as no more than proxy wars against union­ism.

Their ab­ject fail­ure up to now to con­vince the wider pop­u­la­tion of the ben­e­fits of a united Ire­land means Adams must con­tinue to ag­i­tate, thus deny­ing the ma­jor­ity from both tra­di­tions the sta­bil­ity they crave in the po­lit­i­cal land­scape.

That broader so­ci­ety in North­ern Ire­land can see the con­tra­dic­tion of a party preach­ing rights on one hand, while at­tend­ing com­mem­o­ra­tions for a ter­ror­ist or­gan­i­sa­tion that was re­spon­si­ble for gross hu­man rights abuses against the pop­u­la­tion of this coun­try for decades.

There are un­com­fort­able truths for Ir­ish repub­li­cans, who de­mand the im­ple­men­ta­tion of pre­vi­ous agree­ments, be­cause those agree­ments were

clear in sep­a­rat­ing iden­tity from sovereignty. Yet, Sinn Fein de­lib­er­ately con­fuse and con­flate the two, hence Michelle O’Neill’s false state­ment in Manch­ester last week that North­ern Ire­land isn’t Bri­tish.

It is! It’s Michelle who isn’t Bri­tish, and union­ists ac­cepted her right to de­fine her own iden­tity in 1998, just as she signed up to the con­sti­tu­tional sta­tus of North­ern Ire­land.

But, of course, Sinn Fein can­not even bring them­selves to call the coun­try by its proper name — an act of deep dis­re­spect.

And it goes much deeper than that.

Sinn Fein want an

Ir­ish Lan­guage Act, point­ing to ex­ist­ing lan­guage acts in Wales and Scot­land and ac­cus­ing union­ists of dou­ble stan­dards.

Union­ists must point out that na­tion­al­ists in Wales and Scot­land can still of­fer the re­spect of tak­ing their seats in Par­lia­ment while ar­gu­ing for an end to West­min­ster’s in­flu­ence on their coun­try — and all the rest. Sinn Fein’s

pol­icy is firmly in line with Boris John­son’s “have cake, eat cake” re­marks about Brexit.

There is, how­ever, a chal­lenge for union­ism in how to re­spond to this.

For me, it is clear that we must de­mand and de­fend equal­ity and the pro­tec­tion of hu­man rights for both our­selves and oth­ers, not as a means to an end, but be­cause it is the right thing to do. The is­sue must be the is­sue, not an im­ple­ment for ag­i­ta­tion.

The fu­ture of North­ern Ire­land will de­pend on us be­ing a fair and equal so­ci­ety that of­fers re­spect for all ci­ti­zens. I know that union­ists can of­fer this.

Repub­li­cans of­ten take a stance in the hope of pro­vok­ing a knee-jerk re­ac­tion from union­ism. Sadly, his­tory shows they have a more than even chance of get­ting one.

We must learn to re­sist the ag­i­ta­tion of those who sim­ply view equal­ity as a tool to im­pose their ide­ol­ogy, and take own­er­ship of the val­ues that will se­cure a fair fu­ture for all.

SF’s bid to style it­self as a de­fender of rights is an at­tempt to cover up for its stut­ter­ing po­lit­i­cal project

Sinn Fein’s Gerry Adams (left) and Michelle O’Neill (be­low) con­tinue to de­mand an Ir­ish Lan­guage Act as problems in the health (top) and ed­u­ca­tion (above) sys­tems mount

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