The Price of Peace
You meet all sorts on Twitter. Where else, for instance, could the Iranian foreign minister exchange public banter with the daughter of a former Speaker of the US House of Representatives? What would we do without Geoffrey Chaucer’s thoughts on Harry Potter? How would we know who was Nigel?
There’s a particularly genial and eccentric chap I began following some time ago, an Irishman. He tweets gnomic observations and scraps of Gaelic, whimsical instalments from the rich inner life of his teddy bear and pictures of himself grinning next to various friends and admirers, complete with a beard reminiscent of Father Christmas: the Kibbutz Years. All in all, he looks like a man you’d happily ask to be godfather or feed your fish, a good egg.
He is, of course, Gerry Adams, president of Sinn Féin. For the uninitiated, Sinn Féin is a legitimate political party that has never, in any way, had anything to do with the Provisional IRA. Adams himself is simply a much-maligned statesman and advocate for Republicanism who has certainly never been a member of the PIRA army council, despite the base insinuations of marginal and depraved figures like the Irish Prime Minister. He is definitely, definitely not a mass-murdering terrorist. At all.
Glad we’ve cleared that up. Still, I can’t help but read Mr Adams’ Twitter timeline through the eyes of those whose relatives’ deaths the man had absolutely nothing to do with. When they see him expressing concern for local businesses “devastated” in a flood, do they reflect on the devastating potential of, to pick an example out of thin air, a car bomb? When he waxes lyrical on the joys of spring, do they remember those not here to see it?
In fact, I hope none of the IRA’s living victims ever see these tweets, they’ve suffered enough. If they do, it’d be hard to blame them for feeling cheated at best. Leaving Twitter to one side – difficult but possible – they surely can’t avoid turning on the news and seeing Adams and his partner-in-nothing-at-all Martin McGuinness treated like normal politicians, along with their rabble-rousing Unionist counterparts. It must seem a world turned upside-down, the end of decency itself.
Worst of all, it’s probably necessary. Hypocrisy is underrated. In order to build a peaceful Europe and welcome a democratic (West) Germany back into the family of nations, we had to pretend there weren’t still countless former Nazis holding critical positions in every walk of life. Nazism was a cancer too big to excise totally, a truly rigorous “de-Nazification” process – rather than the selective and imperfect one that actually took place – would have left the new Germany fatally short of skilled workers and professionals.
There’s no doubt this was a very great injustice. It meant that people who had cheerfully turned in their Jewish neighbours could end their years in quiet anonymity as their victims remained names on a list, somewhere in a mountain of bones and ash. But the end result is difficult to argue with. Modern Germany hasn’t dealt flawlessly with its horrific past, but it has become a liberal, tolerant and pluralist society, the model European state. If every single Nazi and fellow-traveller had been hunted down, the social and economic stability that made this possible may well have been unattainable.
The Good Friday agreement was a great thing, have no doubt. Weighed against the near-cessation of violence, having to tolerate Adams and the rest is a tolerable price. Let the killers and their cheerleaders play at respectability, we’ll bite our tongues if we must. But we mustn’t forget, and when Gerry Adams invites us to laugh with him, it’s time to Unfollow.Tagged in: enda kenny, Gerry Adams, Good Friday agreement, hypocrisy, Ian Paisley, IRA, ireland, Martin McGuinness, Northern Ireland, peace, Sinn Fein, terrorism, The Troubles, twitter, uk
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