Sunday 15 December 2019

When in a hole, Adams just keeps on digging

The only person whose feelings Gerry Adams seems to care about on Twitter is himself

Gerry Adams
Gerry Adams

Eilis O'Hanlon

Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams had a busy time of it last Sunday, deleting 150 of the 159 tweets which he had, up to that point, chosen to 'favourite' on his Twitter page.

Gone were the personal photographs; out went the retweets of support for various good causes; suddenly absent too were the worryingly large number of his own tweets to which the republican leader had previously given the personal nod of approval. Only nine remained. Ten, as of Thursday, when he favourited another of his own tweets before flying off to the US.

The fact that one of the remaining favourites happened to be from a tweeter known as @amuchmorexotic expressing nostalgic regret for the way certain types of humour have dropped out of common currency didn't exactly help his cause, however. "There's a lot more rape & prostitution jokes in D.A.R.Y.L. than you'd expect," is how it goes. "The 80s was a golden era." (D.A.R.Y.L. is a science fiction film).

Leaving that one untouched - more exposed than ever by its isolation, rather than being hidden in a crowd - was an obvious gesture of defiance from Adams, meant presumably to express his irritation with the fact that what he considers innocent jokes (such as the crude pun on the surname of Harry Potter character Neville Longbottom which was highlighted in these pages last weekend) were now being interpreted by others as a sign of his lack of sensitivity when dealing with the issue of sexual abuse.

In a way, the Sinn Fein leader was taking on the unlikely role of an old stand-up comedian who finds himself out of favour and declares that it's "political correctness gone mad". He expanded on that theme a few days later with a disingenuous blog, in which he purported to defend himself against any charge of impropriety in his Twitter account.

There were so many logical fallacies in the blog that even the most attentive reader must have lost count, as Adams metaphorically shot every messenger, declaring COMMENT, PAGE 28

not least that journalists who had the effrontery to publish his tweets had "inflated the property bubble", a bizarre connection which no doubt made sense in his own mind.

Throughout his blog, Adams performed the classical rhetorical trick of concentrating on one small aspect of one charge against him in order to distract attention from all the others - and he didn't even address that charge correctly.

Instead, he just kept denying that there was anything inappropriate about the poem by Maya Angelou which he tweeted last October and which contained the line "does my sexiness upset you?" - even though no one had ever taken issue with the poem itself, much less said that its author was anything other than an inspirational woman.

What they did say was that Adams's timing when he tweeted the poem, in the week when his brother had been found guilty of abusing Gerry's niece Aine when she was aged between four and nine - and Adams himself was under fire for allowing Liam to continue to work with young people after he became aware of what his brother had done - was insensitive at best and provocative at worst.

Adams brushed away the suggestion that the tweet had anything to do with what he airily, some might even say callously, called "other unrelated issues", without offering any argument why they should be regarded as unrelated, except that he said so.

Adams was, in effect, taking shelter behind Maya Angelou's skirts, trying to make it seem that, in attacking him, his critics were actually traducing a black rape victim, whose poem was a defiant cry of female sexuality in the face of patriarchal oppression.

But that's not why Adams tweeted it last October. He wasn't making a feminist statement. On the contrary, he posted it with a message that was unambiguously about himself: "2mara, le cuidiu Dhia, I am delighted 2 become a pensioner. Yeeehaaa! All things considered not bad x."

He used Still I Rise, not to show solidarity for women, but to big himself up on the eve of his 65th birthday. It was two fingers raised to his critics in a week when he'd been heavily criticised. The only "victim" he was thinking about at the time was himself.

The awkward fact which Adams still won't address is that it wasn't Maya Angelou who sent Aine a book on her birthday dedicated to the man who abused her at the age of four; and it wasn't Angelou who tweeted a poem two weeks ago called My Special Uncle, which extolled "the special kind of love" an uncle can provide, in the middle of another scandal ignited by the treatment of Mairia Cahill, a woman raped by her aunt's husband, Marty Morris. It was Adams who did both those things.

Would a sensitive man who understands how to treat victims really act this way?

The issue couldn't be simpler. Either he knows what he's doing is wrong, or he doesn't. Both possibilities are deeply troubling in their different ways. Neither of them can be explained benevolently.

What's almost as worrying is the astonishing levels of self pity which the Sinn Fein leader continues to exhibit, as if it's all about him and his woes, when it's women such as Aine and Mairia who've suffered most, and continue to be let down. There was even a bathetic line in his blog in which he chided journalists for "trawling through my Twitter account".

Social media is not a private conversation. It's a communal platform. Adams is appropriating indignation like a man whose phone has been tapped, when all that's happening is that journalists are finally paying attention to the information which he has put out in the public domain.

The Sinn Fein president finished his blog, incidentally, by declaring: "I can guess what Maya Angelou would have said." So can I. She'd have said: "I believe Mairia."

Sunday Independent

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