@GerryAdamsSF goes social
Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams has joined the ranks of twitter users. Photograph: Dara Mac Donaill/The Irish Times
"Dia dhaoibh gach duine, I am now on twitter," tweeted Gerry Adams for the very first time on February 6th. Well if the Pope had done it, why couldn't the leader of Sinn Féin reach out to a new generation via the current social media platform du jour?
However, anyone who was expecting the Sinn Féin version of a Papal Bull was in for a bit of surprise. For the first two days, Adams cleaved to the party orthodoxy with messages opposing the Government's approach to the promissory notes and notices about upcoming political events.
But then on February 8th, he started adding levity to the brevity, with a couple of bizarre 140 character messages to the world when he found himself locked out from his 'constituency' house in Ravensdale, Co Louth.
It opened us up to a very eccentric Adamesque world featuring a much put upon assistant known only as RG, a teddy bear which Adams takes to bed, a family dog, one-eyed horses, tree-hugging and working out how to use a síne fada on his ipad.
On Friday night, February 8th, the first off-centre tweet was posted. It read:
"Rg took the car. Took my house keys also. I feel an adventure coming on."
RG seems to be to Adams what Baldrick was to Blackadder in the comedy series of the same name. He is in fact Richard McAuley, Adams's long-time press adviser and now his PA in the Dáil. Both from Belfast, they share the Co Louth house during the week.
"RGs phone constantly engaged. It's getting dark. Wud climb in back window but downpipe broke," read the next tweet.
A little later: "RG traced. Where are u now when we need u? 70 miles away. I'm in now. Starving. Need a glazier. Slan."
Those three tweets triggered a torrent of activity on twitter, with some wondering if Adams account had been hacked and other unable to resist jibes. Of the best repeatable ones was a tweet saying that any Belfast glazier would be delighted to do it for free given all the business republicans have sent to glaziers over the years. Another mentioned the possible addition of fertiliser and saltpeter to the broken drainpipe to aid a forced entry.
After that there was no looking back. The next morning, Adams shared the experience of his pre-dawn cycle. "Saw a squirrel chasing a cat. A grey one. The squirrel that is. Glad 2 b alive. So is cat."
Later, he revealed he was having a bath with a rubber duck, a yellow one.
It was then that the Sinn Féin leader introduced us, including a small West Highland terrier called Snowie and Ted, a teddy bear. And from the photos that Adams has tweeted, it seems Ted is the favourite among a menagerie of teddy bears Adams possesses.
And as time moves on, there have been sub-plots involving the teddy bear Ted having an illicit affair with another teddy; Adams cooking oysters and romantic coq au vin for himself on St Valentine's night, and insights into his musical tastes: Joni Mithcell; Leonard Cohen; Luke Kelly and Showadawaddy.
The latest and encounter with a one-eyed animal in Co Derry yesterday: "Me and Naoise Kelly and a one eyed cow in Maghera. Brón orm. Horse! Shudda gone 2 Specsavers."
Needless, to say, there has been a mixed response to the tweets among the twitterati. Some wonder has his account been hijacked? Others have wondered has he lost the marbles or his senses or the plot? Others believe that it's refreshing, showing a lighter and more human side to a very divisive figure. And of course, others believe it is a poker player's double-blind... a deliberate Sinn Féin strategy to make Adams a more accessible figure.
If it is, it's pretty far out almost to the point of self-ridicule and counter-productivity. Some of his colleagues in Sinn Féin say that in person Adams is a good bit removed from the obdurate public figure. Indeed, said one, he is a bit of a practical joker and a quipper, who ribs colleagues humorously for their various foibles.
The other party leaders who are regular tweeters are Micheál Martin of Fianna Fáil and Eamon Ryan of the Greens. While both include some personal tweets, their sites are dominated by serious political tweets. Neither the Taoiseach Enda Kenny nor Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore maintain accounts.