JJ Lee argues that this may be the perfect time for a new leader for Sinn Féin
Gerry Adams’s political career is somewhat of an anomaly. The Sinn Féin leader has repeatedly dodged catastrophe time and time again, and it is fair to say he is damaged goods. With the recent re-emergence of the Brian Stack murder case into the glare of the public eye, is now the perfect time for the Belfast man to step down?
In the wake of a deluge of information emerging regarding the IRA’s involvement in Prison Officer Brian Stack’s death in 1983, Adams’s reputation has once again been tarnished. It is irrefutable that Adams is indeed a magnet for controversy. The handling of the case by the current TD as a whole has been messy at best. The decision to take Stack’s sons, Austin & Oliver, in a blacked out van to meet a mystery IRA man in August of 2013 is not the sort of behaviour a constituent or voter would ideally desire a sitting politician to be engaged in.
The e-mails sent to the Garda Commissioner providing details about the murder appear as an almost pre-emptive measure undertaken by Adams so as to possibly prevent further scandals. However, his failure to simply state names has done more to damage not only his own public perception, but it has also stained the Sinn Féin party as a whole and not for the first time.
Realistically, if Gerry Adams was to step down as the leader of Sinn Féin, now is the ideal time. The party is suffering in some regards under his stewardship, there is a significant number of the electorate who will simply overlook Sinn Féin as a viable political party due to Adams’s links with the IRA. A large number of voters grew up during the Troubles and witnessed the atrocities committed; this generation, for the most part, repeatedly ignore Sinn Fein due to Adam's alleged involvement.
Following the Stack controversy, Adams has been presented with a golden opportunity. The party leader could potentially provide crucial information in regards to the case and sacrifice his own position to implement justice for the Stack family, thus leading to nothing but good publicity for all parties. Crucially, this would signal a new era for Sinn Féin. Mary Lou McDonald is supposedly lying in wait to take over the reins and this would give the traditionally periphery party the opportunity for a smooth transition of leadership. Campaigning is all about the timing and one must factor in the state of global politics; in times of such general unrest amongst the population, voters generally tend to sway towards the fringe political parties. With Adams gone from the party, the stigma that surrounds voting for Sinn Féin could arguably be removed.
Now seems to be a better time than ever for Gerry Adams to make a bold statement. Such a move would not only change the general perception of the man but would also positively affect his party. It will be interesting to see what unfolds. Can Adams put his own quest for political power aside for the long term benefit of Sinn Féin?