Is Gerry Adams the towering political figure of our time in the same way that Henry Grattan, Daniel O'Connell, Charles Stewart Parnell, John Redmond or Eamon de Valera were in their time?
Consider the following:
- He was instrumental in the peace process and managing the successful transition in Irish republicanism from militancy to organised political participation. Like Collins or Dev before him, he knew when the time was right to ditch the sword in favour of the pen and he was able to bring his people with him.
- He was instrumental in the constitutional transformation of Northern Ireland from a solid unionist garrison into a hybrid mongrel statelet that is now set on the inevitable course of reunification with the south.
- Under his watch, SF became the party of nationalism in the North, completely marginalising the SDLP who will not be remembered for a whole lot.
- Under his leadership, Sinn Fein's presence in the south has increased dramatically. They are now a serious force in electoral politics and will be an even bigger force after the next general election:
In GE 1987 SF got 1.9%
In GE 2011 SF got 9.9%
In GE 2016, all opinion polls suggest anything north of 15% as high as 20%, with an overtake of labour on cards.
- Taking the last two points together, they are the only serious all-island political force which is a historic achievement in itself.
It should be noted of course that he did not single-handedly achieve all of this. Doubtless people like Martin McGuinness and Joe Cahill made invaluable inputs, and of course there were many other players in the peace process too. But Adams is definitely the face of this extraordinary success.