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The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent
The Big Fella and the Big Lad
Breandán Ó Muirthile • 20.10.03

Tommy Gorman has recently written about the historical rehabilitation of Michael Collins by Sinn Féin, with the party now apparently displaying the Cork man’s picture on the wall of their offices at Stormont.

The Collins-Adams comparison has become a cliché. Both were Republican leaders who brought wars to an end and negotiated settlements which fell far short of the objectives for which the rank and file had sacrificed so much.

However, it is not the similarities, but the stark differences between the two men which are the most illuminating.

Collins, for example, was an extremely effective military leader and a genius at intelligence work.

He enunciated a coherent strategy which lay behind the decision to reluctantly accept the treaty. Whatever one thinks of his decision, the notion that the treaty brought the “freedom to achieve freedom”, that it was a “stepping stone to the Republic” and that the institutions and armed forces of the nascent Free State could be used to achieve the full freedom to which Collins aspired, represented a logical strategy.

Adams, by contrast, has never advanced anything that could be dignified by being described as a coherent strategy. There is, in fact, no strategy whatsoever, nor has there ever been. What passes for “strategic Republicanism” is in reality nothing other than the unprincipled pursuit of institutional power by and for Sinn Féin. It also serves as a handy term aimed at bamboozling the rank and file into thinking that an ongoing series of self-evident defeats are actually advances when viewed as parts of an alleged leadership master plan.

Where Collins’ leadership was characterised by intense debate with his opponents, as he argued his case in Dáil Éireann and at countless highly charged public meetings the length and breadth of the country, Adams’ leadership has been concerned instead with the stultification of debate.

Criticism is “allowed” (!) only on the unspoken but very real condition that it is utterly politically ineffectual, changes nothing, challenges nobody.

Making a virtue of anti-intellectualism, Adams has sought to smother debate by hiding behind empty slogans such as “trusting the leadership” (because, as we all know, there are “no armchair generals in this leadership”), “making politics work”, “moving the situation forward” etc… ad nauseam.

The result has been that rational debate has been replaced by a quasi-religious leap of faith in the powers of an allegedly charismatic leadership. In Germany between 1933 and 1945 this concept of leadership was known as the fuhrerprinzip.

Consequently, we have been treated to the unedifying spectacle of a Provisional grass roots which is seemingly content to be marched in any direction its allegedly omniscient leadership chooses to take it and to believe anything it is told.

Ceasefire. Mitchell Principles. Acceptance of partition. Endorsement of Unionist veto. Return to Stormont. SF administration of British rule. Decommissioning. And, coming soon to a barracks near you, support for the PSNI, as a disarmed IRA is casually tossed onto the negotiating table like a trussed up chicken.

When the next act of decommissioning takes place and De Chastelain publishes an inventory of the weapons destroyed, I await with interest the reaction of the incorrigibly faithful who repeatedly assured those of us too thick to see that decommissioning would “never happen within a thousand years” and who, when it did, advanced with straight faces the party line that De Chastelain had been hoodwinked.

Whatever the shortcomings of the treaty, and there clearly were many, a fact which was painfully obvious to Collins himself, when one examines the overall balance sheet of Collins’ leadership it is hard to argue against the notion that he took the struggle forward and that he was at least prepared to argue his case and engage with his Republican opponents.

Adams, by contrast, has consistently refused to offer any meaningful vision of how Republican objectives are to be achieved or entertain any debate of this alleged strategy. His “achievement” consists of leading the Provisional movement into support for a settlement less Republican in content than the Sunningdale Agreement which was scornfully dismissed a quarter of a century earlier and which amounts to little more than the political codification of Republicans’ military defeat.





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The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent



All censorships exist to prevent any one from challenging current conceptions and existing institutions. All progress is initiated by challenging current conceptions, and executed by supplanting existing institutions. Consequently the first condition of progress is the removal of censorships.
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Index: Current Articles

20 October 2003


Other Articles From This Issue:


The Big Fella and the Big Lad
Breandán Ó Muirthile


Sabotaging the Fight for Freedom
Liam O Comain


Republicanism: Relevant and Not Going Away
TJ O Conchuir


Anti-Racism Network Statement for Endorsement
Davy Carlin


From Where Springs Hope
Anthony McIntyre


Trashing Free Software
Toni Solo


18 October 2003


Hold Onto Your Guns
Liam O Comain


Loyalist Violence
Newton Emerson


Sleeping With the Enemy
Kathleen O Halloran


Whatever Happened to the Anti War Movement?
Brendan O'Neill


Free Joe & Clare
Davy Carlin


Theodor Adorno
Liam O Ruairc


The Desaparecidos
Anthony McIntyre


The Letters Page has been updated.




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