There was a very lengthy examination of Gerry Adams and his alleged role in the IRA during the 1970s and 1980s in The New Yorker this week.

The article was mainly tracing over old ground of the Jean McConville shooting in 1972 when the mother of 10 was disappeared and her body found only decades later. The IRA claimed she was an informer, but her family vehemently denies that.

The article was more balanced than most on the emotional topic, showing the tenor of the times and the different unholy alliances of the period.

Reading it through, you get a sense of how hopeless Northern Ireland seemed back then with rampant violence and no political ground game.

If you had predicted that Sinn Fein, then a minor appendage on the body of the IRA, would be in power in the North and threatening to gain power in the Irish Republic you would have been laughed out of court.

Fast forward a generation. There were 2,000 delegates at the Sinn Fein annual convention in Derry last weekend, a massive crowd by Irish political standards, north or south.

A friend who reported from there tweeted that the most obvious difference between Sinn Fein and all the other political parties on the island is age and gender.

Sinn Fein have women in several top elected positions. The party’s likely next leader in the Irish Republic is Mary Lou McDonald.

Equally, judging by the TV coverage the audience was overwhelmingly younger, certainly compared to other parties where older males are the norm.

From the dead end of 1970s violence and mayhem, Sinn Fein has fashioned a future that they themselves could hardly have dreamed off through their advocacy of the peace process firstly, and then providing an impassioned voice on the left in Irish Republic politics.

The Derry convention came a time when the next year in Irish politics may change the landscape forever.

One year from now we will either be in the thick of an Irish election which must be held before early April, or in the aftermath of it.

On Saturday night Sinn Fein leader Adams was making bold predictions that his party would be the largest party in the Irish Republic after the next election.

Such a claim would have been laughable a few years back when the party “enjoyed” about two percent support, but all has changed utterly.

Certainly opinion polls back that up as they are neck and neck with Fine Gael and ahead of Fianna Fail and the hapless Labor Party trailing far behind.

Sinn Fein’s success comes in spite of a concerted media campaign to minimize their rise. The party has thrived regardless.

Dr. Richard Haass, the former U.S. economic envoy to the North, told The New Yorker, “I don't know what the Irish for Teflon factor is, but Gerry Adams certainly has it.”

Sinn Fein are also benefiting in spades from voter weariness with austerity and the same old faces in Irish public life.

The Labor Party until recently did not have a minister under 60 years old. Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny has led an economic revival, but will voters remember that or the austerity that helped bring that about?

These times a day, never mind a week, is a long time in politics, and massive overexposure from all the new media makes for a hectic political cycle.

That is Sinn Fein’s chance. The wheel of fortune appears to have settled on them for the moment.

Will it last into an Irish election? The answer will soon be known.