Friday 28 October 2016

Adams has a habit of saying stupid things and accusing others of misunderstanding

Published 03/05/2016 | 02:30

Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams, Vice-President of Sinn Fein Mary Lou McDonald, First Minister of Northern Ireland Martin McGuinness at the Sinn Fein ard fheis at The Convention Centre in Dublin. Photo: Niall Carson/PA Wire
Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams, Vice-President of Sinn Fein Mary Lou McDonald, First Minister of Northern Ireland Martin McGuinness at the Sinn Fein ard fheis at The Convention Centre in Dublin. Photo: Niall Carson/PA Wire

Plenty of Irish people stayed up late on Sunday night to watch the new episode of 'Game Of Thrones'. But those hoping to see the usual round of political assassinations in Westeros would have witnessed an even more surreal act of political hara kiri take place on Twitter.

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As anyone with the time and patience to follow Gerry Adams on Twitter knows only too well, the Sinn Féin leader is an eccentric sort of chap prone to Tweeting his 111,000 followers about his teddy bear and rubber ducks.

But when he decided to publicly express his appreciation for Quentin Tarantino's 'Django Unchained', he chose to say: "Watching Django Unchained - a Ballymurphy N***er!" [But he didn't use asterisks].

Unsurprisingly, the Tweet was greeted with fury and contempt but Adams chose to double down on his original statement and then added, for good measure: "Any1 who saw Django would know my tweets & N-word were ironic. Nationalists in Nth were treated like African Americans."

There are plenty of historic parallels drawn between the Civil Rights movement for blacks in America and Catholics in Northern Ireland, although only the most flagrant abuser of context would directly compare the experience of the North's nationalist population to actual slaves.

There's an old saying in American politics that the cover-up will kill you quicker than the crime. But in the case of the increasingly befuddled Sinn Féin leader, it will be his non-apology apology that has brought even further attention to the gaffe.

As the criticism mounted late on Sunday evening and into the early hours of Monday morning, and as news organisations around the world picked up on his latest piece of film commentary, Adams decided to clear the air by adding some smog.

After deleting the Tweet, he then accused his critics of being too stupid to understand his point. In the realm of half-hearted apologies, this was a true spectacular: "My tweets about the film and the use of the N-word were ironic and not intended to cause any offence whatsoever...If anyone is genuinely offended by my use of the N-word they misunderstand or misrepresent the context in which it was used."

Adams has a history of saying stupid things and then accusing everyone else of not understanding his true meaning.

But to claim, as he did, that the only reason anyone could be offended by his use of the 'N' word - no, not 'nationalist' - would be through either ignorance ('misunderstand') or malice ('misrepresent') manages to insult everyone who saw the Tweet and wondered if he had been hacked or simply gone mad.

Adams has often been accused of being completely out of touch, and that sentiment was certainly echoed by 'The Washington Times', which mused that: "The longtime leader of the Irish Republican Army's political wing used the most toxic of all racial slurs Sunday night."

He can try to justify himself on whatever increasingly spurious grounds he wants, and he is hardly the first public figure to send a Tweet he desperately wishes he hadn't. But, for better or worse, he is still the leader of a major political party and he is the leader of a political party which has tried to position itself as a non-racist, non-homophobic, non-sectarian bastion of multicultural harmony.

Using the 'N' word, and then haughtily branding those who objected as either idiots or cranks, is hardly in keeping with the touchy-feely patina of respectability his party is so desperate to attain.

In fact, if Adams owes anyone an apology - and not yesterday's feeble, grudging admission that his Tweets were 'inappropriate' - then it is surely to the rank and file membership of his own party.

After all, when 'The Washington Times' is accusing your party boss of using the "most toxic of all racial slurs", then you know it must be time for a change.

No other party on this island relies on American donations quite as much as Sinn Féin. But the revolutionary chic they peddle to their American base is rather at odds with the sight of a figurehead who, by turns, compares himself to iconic black leaders and then uses the 'N' word. Frankly, to American minds, it must appear as if he has some sort of weird obsession.

What Adams seems utterly incapable of grasping is that it really doesn't matter if he thinks the nationalists of Northern Ireland were treated as badly as slaves. Once you have to explain your point and walk people through your thought processes, as he has been forced to do, then you've already lost the argument.

He obviously likes to draw parallels between himself and the American Civil Rights movement, but the most obvious comparison is surely with the Ken Livingstone/anti-Semitism row currently convulsing the UK's Labour Party.

In both instances, two superannuated politicians who are long past their sell-by dates have discovered that the world has moved on from their heyday and, rightly or wrongly, remarks which would once have come and gone now have the unfortunate habit of derailing a political career.

As Mairia Cahill said during the Twitter storm: "There is something wrong with him. I've said it before."

Whether there is actually something wrong with him, or whether he's just behaving like an elderly uncle who can't understand why he's not allowed to say the 'N' word at the dinner table, Adams has once more proven that he is not suitable to lead a respectable political party. Or Sinn Féin.

How ironic, then, given this man's murky and poisonous past, that he could yet be taken down by a misjudged Tweet and an even more egregiously misjudged 'apology'.

Irish Independent

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