Adams as SF leader just doesn't add up
Published 19/02/2016 | 02:30
Normally, as election day nears, the shoals of red herrings and herds of white elephants are sent on their way, so the real issues that impact people's lives can come in for scrutiny.
The focus in the election's home straight is spending and taxes, and Gerry Adams came close to falling at the first hurdle.
He was put on the back foot, having to deny that he is misleading the public about the amount they will save on water charges should his party get into government.
He also appeared at a loss to elaborate on what the basic tax rates were. He grew tetchy and irritable, suggesting that somehow this should not be an accountancy exercise. For families all over the country, it is indeed about balancing needs with scarce resources.
Unsurprisingly, Mr Adams's performance on RTÉ radio was seized upon by constituency rival Labour minister Ged Nash, who described it as "embarrassing". He claimed Mr Adams tied himself in knots on the most basic details of his own tax policy. Finance Minister Michael Noonan also set about lambasting the economic policies of Fianna Fáil and Sinn Féin. He claimed there was a €1.24bn "black hole" in Fianna Fáil's budget numbers, describing it as the party's "black hole of Calcutta". Fianna Fáil and Sinn Féin both dismissed criticisms, insisting that their plans were costed.
Tax reliefs and pension benefits are confusing at the best of times but putative political leaders like Mr Adams have a serious responsibility to be clear about plans. Yesterday, this newspaper revealed that Sinn Féin had targeted RTÉ, claiming that the party was not getting its fair share of coverage. When the party leader was given ample airtime yesterday, its finance spokesman Pearse Doherty had to be dispatched to deny that he was "a liability".
Mr Doherty also said that he might put himself forward as leader should a vacancy arise. While Mr Adams has been at the helm for 33 years, he insists that he has no intention of quitting.
In an increasingly unstable economic world, where death and taxes are said to be the only two certainties, we can add a third - Mr Adams is not a mathematical genius.
And if it doesn't all add up for a potential partner in government, what hope has the voter?