Saturday 18 November 2017

Swords, guns and swastikas - Gerry chills after the Dáil war

Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams and Cait Ní Cheallaigh looks at items, including a gun used in the 1916 rising at the Swords Museum, north Co Dublin
Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams and Cait Ní Cheallaigh looks at items, including a gun used in the 1916 rising at the Swords Museum, north Co Dublin
Gerry Adams looks at artifacts in the museum, which include a swastika
Lise Hand

Lise Hand

The eyes of the handful of reporters crammed into the tiny museum were out on sticks. What in the name of the almighty was that yoke gleaming in a display case, just behind the bearded countenance of Gerry Adams? It couldn't be … surely not … was that…?

Perhaps it's just as well that the craziness of the campaign trail isn't upon the politicians for a few months yet. For it may be that a bit of ring-rustiness has set in, a dulling of the sharpness required by those who ride shotgun with party leaders on high-speed walkabouts to spot potential hazards well in advance. Hazards such as irate constituents with a whole skeleton of bones to pick at a high decibel level, perfectly audible to reporters. Or dodgy signs and objects in close proximity that make photographers' day .

It's been a trying week for Gerry Adams, as he and his party have been parrying incoming Scuds since two police reports into paramilitary activities on both sides of the border were published on Monday.

There have been some tense skirmishes between Sinn Féin on one side, and the Coalition and Fianna Fáil on the other. Therefore, Gerry was probably quite happy to take himself to Swords yesterday afternoon for a stroll around the town with Louise O'Reilly, his party's candidate in Dublin Fingal.

And Louise, a trade union official, will be busy getting to know the locals over the next few months, as she is based in Crumlin. Swords councillors Daire Ní Laoí and Philip Lynam were also on hand for the tour.

It was a grand, sunny afternoon, and Gerry obligingly stopped for a word with the media before heading into the little museum on North Street which was holding a 1916 Rising exhibition of artefacts.

Once again this week, he was asked about an issue raised by other parties arising from the reports relating to whether any of the funds in Sinn Féin's well-stuffed coffers could possibly have derived from the criminal activities of some party supporters.

Wearily, Gerry replied: "Sinn Féin doesn't get any funding, except from legitimate sources. We're quite good at that.

"Maybe that's what the other parties are jealous of," he added, barely audible over the deafening sound of workmen deploying a jackhammer - and a road-sign of a man digging with a shovel. "Click-click-click," chattered the cameras.

The exhibition is an Aladdin's Cave of photos and objects from around the time of the Easter Rising, lovingly curated by local woman Bernie Marks, whose own father, Jimmy Marks, had fought in 1916.

"Maith thú," rumbled Gerry as he greeted her. He was shown around the room, stopping to inspect various things of interest. "Click-click-click," went the cameras as he checked out a case containing an ancient revolver and a bullet which were used in the GPO.

On the other side of the room, he stopped to admire some striking black-and-white photos as the reporters strained to make out what the shiny object in the case right behind him was.

It looked damned like a swastika ... no wait, it WAS the Nazi emblem, a big gold yoke complete with winged eagle and crooked cross within a laurel wreath. And there it was, practically sitting on Gerry's shoulder.

The Sinn Féin leader made a few remarks. "Local history brings the story directly to the people - and it's important to tell your own story," he added pointedly.

Then his small posse headed out for what Gerry described as "a ramble". They shook a few hands, some people said hello, and some passed on by. With no November election, there's no real sense of urgency among either candidates or voters.

Inside the town's main shopping centre, Gerry was surely pleased with the respite from the fraught week of Sinn Féin and IRA being back in the same sentence.

He walked past a boutique to a chorus of "click-click-click". The name of the store was 'Reload'.

Dear oh dear. But it's still only the warm-up for the campaign. No doubt Sinn Féin will be match-fit when it all kicks off in the spring.

Irish Independent

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