Tuesday 20 November 2018

Adams hit with furious backlash after racial slur

SF boss apologises – yet still tries to justify N-word tweet

Gerry Adams: Sought to justify tweet in context of Irish suffering caused by penal laws and partition. Photo: Gareth Chaney
Gerry Adams: Sought to justify tweet in context of Irish suffering caused by penal laws and partition. Photo: Gareth Chaney
Tim Brannigan: ‘Nationalists were not in chains’

John Downing, Ciara Treacy and Noel McAdam

Gerry Adams was rounded upon for using the "Irish slave myth" to try and justify his shocking N-word outburst on Twitter.

The Sinn Féin leader admitted his controversial tweet - later removed from his Twitter account - was inappropriate, but defended his comparison of the treatment of Irish nationalists to African Americans.

Mr Adams provoked an angry backlash on Twitter and from political opponents after tweeting on Sunday night about 'Django Unchained', the Oscar-winning Quentin Tarantino film about slavery in America.

The latest in a long line of bizarre tweets from the Louth TD said: "Watching Django Unchained - A Ballymurphy N*****!" He also referred to the main character as "an uppity Fenian".

Mr Adams later apologised "for any offence caused" but later sought to justify it in the context of the Irish suffering penal laws and partition.

However his argument was debunked by experts who insisted that their plight was not directly comparable to African American slaves.

Tim Brannigan, a black Irish man who was imprisoned in the 1990s for possession of IRA weapons, said: "Comparing nationalists to blacks is clearly wrong and causes genuine offence. Nationalists were not in chains. They were not slaves."

Slavery historian Liam Hogan, who is based in Limerick, also rejected Mr Adams's comparisons between Irish people and African Americans.

Mr Hogan's work seeks to debunk the 'Irish slave myth' and argues that the Irish were "indentured servants" rather than slaves.

"You can't jump from the slave labour camps of The South to twentieth century Northern Ireland by way of an apology," he tweeted.

Mr Hogan later said there is a "significant difference" between "recognising the solidarity between civil rights movements" and "using the N-word to co-opt history".

Mr Adams's tweet will be damaging to Sinn Féin in the US, where the story quickly gained traction, as well as in the North where Stormont elections loom within days.

Sinn Féin quickly rushed out a statement shortly after 2am yesterday morning in a bid to mitigate the damage done.

Ironically, the row came on the same day that his party colleague Martin McGuinness called for an eradication of racism along with other prejudices. Writing in our sister paper the 'Belfast Telegraph', Mr McGuinness said: "We need to eradicate sectarianism, racism, homophobia and bigotry and deliver equality for every one of our citizens".

At a hastily arranged press conference yesterday morning, Mr Adams admitted deleting the tweet minutes after posting it.

"'Django Unchained' is a powerful film which highlights the injustices suffered by African Americans through its main character, Django," he said.

"I have acknowledged that the use of the N-word was inappropriate. That is why I deleted the tweet."

In an earlier statement, Mr Adams had defended his use of the offensive term and said anyone genuinely offended by it either misunderstood him or misrepresented the context.

"Like African Americans, Irish nationalists were denied basic rights," he said. "The penal laws, Cromwell's regime, and partition are evidence of that.


"In our own time, like African Americans, nationalists in the North (of Ireland), including those from Ballymurphy and west Belfast, were denied the right to vote, the right to work, the right to a home, and were subject to draconian laws.

"This changed because we stood up for ourselves. We need to continue to do that."

It also comes just weeks after he was accused of comparing himself to civil rights icon Rosa Parks when he was excluded from a St Patrick's Day celebration at the White House.

SDLP leader Colum Eastwood said: "If a similar remark had been made by any other political leader on this island, Sinn Féin would have unleashed an orchestrated wave of angry condemnation," he said.

Mike Nesbitt, leader of the UUP, described Mr Adams's comments as "contemptible" while First Minister Arlene Foster claimed Mr Adams' mask had "slipped again". "To compare slavery in America to the life of anyone in Northern Ireland is utterly ridiculous and offensive to those who suffered in slavery," she said.

Irish Independent

Editor's Choice

Also in Irish News