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Gerry Adams' Comment on Thatcher Comes from a Party of Protest, not a Party of Policy

17/04/2013 10:38 BST | Updated 16/06/2013 10:12 BST

The UK editor of Vice Magazine, Alex Miller was right: Lady Thatcher's passing did usher in an almighty wave of dickheadism onto our streets.

And no more so than in Northern Ireland where in republican enclaves, we saw rejoicing and mass celebration. How crass.

When the news of her death broke, the "glorious leader and perpetual president" of Sinn Fein Gerry Adams came out with the usual anti-Britain spiel: calling her policy on Ireland, "draconian" and "militaristic".

The day after, the Guardian gave him a full column.

His comments were vile, mischievous and utterly reeked of gross hypocrisy. The man did after all orchestrate a reign of murderous terror that lasted decades. Everyone knows it, just he won't admit it.

The republican street celebrations were foreseeable; but it certainly didn't help that Adams came out with vitriol and raw anti-Thatcher rhetoric.

His comrade Martin McGuinness was more moderate; urging fellow republicans not to celebrate. But then Gerry Adams seemingly drew back on his original statement. Saying that he could forgive Thatcher but added a caveat that he couldn't forgive her for the outcome of the 1981 hunger strike.

His row back was probably more a case of Adams remembering his new resolution: to love unionists into a United Ireland - as opposed to trying to bomb them out of Ireland.

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However what people fail to remember is that Gerry Adams' original comment does not represent the mainstream view of the Irish people. While it would be wrong to suggest that the Irish are big fans of Thatcher, the majority want to see her off with respect. And a great many Irish have done so.

Including the current Taoiseach Enda Kenny and current President Michael D Higgins.

Adams is wrong in so many ways. Yes the lady did a fair bit of bad on the Irish question but Thatcher also did a fair bit of good for Ireland. And contrary to popular view, it was actually the Labour government that implemented the prison regime that led to the hunger strikes.

As Anne Marie Hourihane of the Irish Times said, "Ireland gained from Thatcher rule, as did Sinn Fein."

She laid out the first paving slab on the route to the 1998 Good Friday Agreement. Thanks of course to the Anglo-Irish accord of 1985.

And as Newton Emerson noted, her spending in Northern Ireland actually increased. She propped up a failing De Lorean plant which went against her most puritan free market predispositions.

He was also right to note that Thatcher authorised a back channel of communication with the IRA.

I'll not exercise the sort of terminology that Rod Liddle of the Spectator used. That Gerry Adams is a "rat-faced semi-house-trained murderer." Because ad hominem attacks are not useful.

I want to do something else: I want to look at Gerry Adams' false rhetoric and false patriotism following the Thatcher death and look at what it implies.

A lot like Ed Miliband's Labour leadership, Sinn Fein is too much about protest and too little about practical policymaking and pragmatic politics.

As Irish Times columnist Harry McGee said recently, there's a "paucity of detailed policy" on the part of Sinn Fein.

To echoe Tony Blair's critique of Ed Miliband in the New Statesman, Sinn Fein must resist the easy option and not merely aspire to be a repository for people's anger.

But I'm not going to spend my whole time here saying how bad Gerry Adams and Sinn Fein are. I'm going to suggest how they should change.

What they need is a Clause Four Moment, much like the one that recast the Labour Party as New Labour. The Clause Four Moment under Blair's leadership vigorously broadened the parties franchise and recalibrated many of the parties' policies. The result was a barnstorming performance for Labour at the ballot box in 1997.

I totally respect the aspiration of nationalists and republican to seek a United Ireland. But let's be sensible and cognisant of the current economic challenges and on-going sensibilities surrounding identity.

Can we not just enjoy present laughter instead of pursuing utopian bliss?

Though I'm unsure if anything like a Clause Four Moment could really be brought about: could Sinn Fein shake-off their violent past?

Moreover, we must remember who Sinn Fein really are: Sinn Fein in Irish means, "Ourselves Alone." To me this reads that the party and its supporters are more than just separatists, they are isolationists. But in this international and digital age could such a rationale really go anywhere?

It's just all very Ukip-ish. But then again Ukip are considering a re-branding exercise. So it's something to consider.

But I want to ask: is Sinn Fein really a party of capable pragmatic governance? Or is it just a perennial party of protest?

You've read my title but you can take your read of who the party is and what it has to offer.