PEOPLE get obsessed with Gerry Adams.

In David Ireland’s darkly comic play, Cyprus Avenue, Loyalist Eric Miller, presented with his new granddaughter, recoils in horror: “Gerry Adams has disguised himself as a newborn baby and successfully infiltrated my family home,” he declares.

His family think he has lost his mind but he is able to prove them wrong.

He puts a pair of glasses on the baby’s face and paints a beard on her chin with a marker. Yes. It is definitely Gerry Adams. Bloody mayhem follows.

Those who hate him often end up speechless and spluttering after they have ransacked their vocabulary and still not been able to fully convey quite how deplorable he was, is and always shall be.

There are journalists who will twist any story to put the blame on him in what has become known as the “Get Adams agenda”.

Those who love him love him all the more when he is vilified.

In the Republicans’ heartlands of the North of Ireland he is the hero who stood up for a people stranded within a violently hostile statelet and abandoned by the establishment in the Republic.

So it is that while political opponents of the outgoing Sinn Fein President still hanker after the smoking gun that will prove definitively what everyone anyway knows, that he was an IRA man, Sinn Feiners just shrug.

Seanna Walsh, who read the statement from the IRA in 2005 declaring it was officially standing down, told me last week that if Adams were to admit IRA membership now, in the absence of a statute of limitations, he could still be sent to prison.

“If circumstances change, he might be more candid,” he said. Another former IRA volunteer put it simply: “You stick to your story.”

Unionists compare him to Hitler, Republicans to Mandela. The middle ground is uneasy. The IRA carried out atrocities.

Then again, so did the British army, and so did their sometimes allies, the Loyalists.

And he did lead his movement into the Peace Process. But that process is stalled now, and few other than Sinn Fein entirely blame the DUP.

He is a bit of a hall of mirrors, Adams.

Less personable than the late Martin McGuinness, who despite his steely eyes and active service aura, became an affable public man, able to pair with the late Ian Paisley in the “Chuckle Brothers”, known to love flyfishing and his family, a determined statesman.

Adams, with his gleaming portcullis of teeth, has remained inscrutable.

Once a self-declared radical socialist, he has overseen his party’s slither to the right, while he maintains a populist critique of the mainstream parties for their relentless exposure of the poorest communities on both sides of the Irish border to further hardships.

As for how he sees himself, he evidently thinks he is hilarious.

Comradely graveside orations in praise of fallen “freedom fighters” are no longer needed.

He refers to himself on Twitter as “Silly Billy”, quotes his teddy bear and mucks about with rubber ducks.

The cover of his most recent book, My Little Book Of Tweets features him posing in dark glasses with an amorous looking goat about to nibble his beard.

His successor, Mary Lou McDonald has more conventional political skills and a fully transparent history.

Nobody thinks we’ve heard the last of Adams, though, as he departs the stage, trailing ghosts.

Susan McKay is an award-winning journalist and author from Derry who has covered Northern Ireland for many years