It’s understandable, I suppose. If you’ve been depicted by the media for thirty years as Satan’s spawn, while maybe dozens of people who would gladly kill you live within a mile or two, you’d be happy to reach a stage where some redress of the balance is possible. But the documentary on Gerry Adams that I watched last night went a bit too far.
I don’t mind his contribution to the Middle East peace process: he speaks up for the million and a half people of Gaza, imprisoned in a piece of land “the size of County Louth”. It’s right that he should be respected by Protestant clergymen for the work he has done in bringing about peace, even if they insisted on referring to it as “a journey”. But the bit where Tony Blair described a peace process conference at one of these country houses, and how he came out one morning and found Gerry hugging a tree – I mean, COME ON, Tony. Martin McGuinness didn’t help by talking about a photograph he has where Gerry is hugging one side of a tree and Tony the other. Then there was the bit where Gerry was in his back yard doing a bit of planting or seeding or something, in little pots and trays… It was more like an At Home With Anne Widdicombe.
Politicians deserve to be judged by their ability to do the job, and for a very long time the Sinn Féin president was judged with wild inaccuracy because of media and political bias. When the history is written, Adams will emerge as a giant figure in late twentieth-century Ireland. The documentary gave us some sense of that, but bulb-planting and tree-hugging and doing a daft poc fada with a hurley stick on a mountain-side is like watching James Connolly demonstrate how to make the perfect omelette.