Politicians and courage


There has been a great deal of tosh talked in recent days about courage. David Trimble has been the focus of much of it, with emphasis on  the boldness of his having come to an agreement with nationalists and republicans to share power. And the price his party paid for this. He has been described as a giant, a man of courage.

 There’s some truth in the claims. He did (finally) sign up to a deal where unionists, contrary to their history, would begin to treat nationalists and republicans with a modicum of respect. His party did pay the price and is paying the price –  unionism today means the DUP, not the UUP.

The other name that’s mentioned in connection with Trimble is John Hume. He likewise has (in the past) been described as a political giant, a man of courage. Again, both terms are merited. Hume did lead the civil rights campaign, and faced the naked hatred of a section of unionism. I remember a reporter asking him if he ever examined his conscience. And again, his party paid a price, partly because of the stand he took, although to a considerable degree because John was not the best at delegating to those in lesser roles. And yes, he was courageous – his house was attacked on more than one occasion by republicans and those who opposed his approach to politics.

However – and it’s so obvious it clearly is intentional – there has been one name which has not been mentioned when people look back to the 1998 Agreement: Gerry Adams. I’ll not insult your intelligence by asking why this is – the answer is the same as that which lies behind antagonism to Sinn Féin in the south. Sinn Féin did not pay a political price for their involvement in the 1998 Agreement – they thrived and continue to thrive on it. But this is where we talk about real courage.

 It is a fact that Gerry Adams, along with Martin McGuinness, was responsible for the movement of republicanism from violence to politics. Both men showed courage in so doing, not in political terms. They faced the prospect that any one of hundreds of armed republicans could turn on them. In short, Gerry Adams put his life on the line, not his political party or political career. And yet we hear no mention of him in all the statements that have gushed from people like Tony Blair, Bill Clinton and Doug Beattie.

And the reason people do not voice the obvious truth about the 1998 Agreement and Adams’s contribution to it? The answer is simple: political cowardice.

Comments are closed.