Winnie, that is. Or perhaps there is a more apt comparison. Martin Kettle does an excellent job of skewering Gerry Adams’ self-serving characterisation of Northern Ireland as equivalent to South Africa:
In Northern Ireland, there used to be a system of apartheid, Gerry Adams observed recently. Adams doesn’t do unintended comments. So his remark was crafted not just to flatter Irish republicanism’s own sense of victimhood but to appeal to some of its useful idiots too. Not least because its implication, none too subtle, was that Sinn Féin was Ulster’s ANC and Adams its Nelson Mandela.
Granted, the Northern Ireland in which Adams and his generation of Catholics grew up was a place of grim, persistent and sometimes aggressive discrimination. But apartheid? Under apartheid, black South Africans were denied citizenship and the vote. They weren’t allowed to live in the cities. They had to carry a special pass, and they committed a criminal offence if they had sex with a white. None of this even remotely applied to Catholics in what was nevertheless an unjust and unequal relationship with Ulster Protestants.
Suggesting Adams resembles a different “comrade”:
Meanwhile, the rackets and the robberies, the beatings and the blackmail will continue. Too weak to succeed but too strong to defeat, Sinn Féin may stay locked in its parallel universe well into its second century. Themselves alone.
And, if that is right, then instead of seeing Gerry Adams as Northern Ireland’s Nelson Mandela, it might be more realistic if we drew a less heroic parallel. Unable to complete the transition from violent to peaceful politics, dependent on the networks of dishonesty on which his authority rests, Adams may now be turning into Northern Ireland’s Yasser Arafat.