‘Ger-ry, Ger-ry, Ger-ry!’: starstruck children meet TV star

Mistresses, media, flowers, Irish language and cheering crowds for Sinn Féin leader

Harry McGee heads to Cork to catch up with Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams on the canvas.

Children on a 1916 tour outside the GPO were distracted from their history lesson by the swarm of media, Irish and international, who arrived behind them.

“Ger-ry, Ger-ry, Ger-ry,” they chanted when the focus of attention, Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams, arrived on O’Connell Street with deputy leader Mary Lou McDonald and crossed to the median in front of the GPO.

He crossed back to them, swamped by the media swarm, shook hands with some of the starstruck pupils and told them that he would making the point that “young people can make change”, before he addressed the press on the theme of getting the youth vote out.

Getting the Irish language out appears more difficult. He was asked about his inability to appear on a TG4 Irish language leaders’ debate, despite his pushing the language in the Dáil for the past five years.


“That’s not true,” he said in Irish for the benefit of the international media.

Through Irish, he said “I believe in our own language, in living Irish. I made a choice as I said. Pearse (Doherty) will be better talking about economic things and other things like that. But I’m very happy to discuss or argue with anyone in Irish.”

But whatever else he promises, there are no pledges on Irish. Asked what he would do in the next five years about his own level of Irish, he merely said “Tá sé níos fear ná a bhí sé nuair a thosaigh mé,” (It’s better than it was when I started).

His Irish may be less than stellar, but the man himself was a superstar for the crowds of shoppers and tourists who wanted to shake his hands and be photographed with him.

One man - with a dog in his arms - insisted on being photographed with the party leader and deputy leader a number of times.

At the top of Moore Street, an African man shook hands, asked to have his photo taken and told the Sinn Féin leader: “You’re not racist”.

At one of the flower stalls, blooms were purchased. Gerry, a bit like Queen Elizabeth it would seem, did not carry cash, and someone handed him €20.

Flower seller Mary Leech wrapped three bunches, and said to him: “You must have a lot of mistresses”.

No reply to that one, but he asked her was she going to vote on Friday. “No, sure I’m retiring after this,” she quipped.

Earlier, Adams had told the assembled press “tomorrow is the people’s day”.

“It can also be the people’s rising. We’re calling upon young people particularly to lead that rising.”

It was a battle of ideas going on between the golden circles and the people, he said. Despite not being one for swearing in public, he surprised some when he called on young people “not to listen to the bullshit” but to come out to vote, to “vote wisely to elect a progressive government”.

“Seize the moment”, “peaceful rising”, “historic opportunity”, “big day” - the list of appropriate clichés outside the GPO was plentiful.

“It’s a big day too for Thomas ‘Slab’ Murphy,” said a journalist who asked if he thought his friend would make time to vote for him in Louth before he went to court on Friday to hear his sentence on tax offences.

“What happens tomorrow in the courts is for the courts,” he said, batting away the comment.

He wanted everyone to consider, including the journalist, “seizing the moment and voting Sinn Fein”.

He was not disappointed with the falling poll ratings for the party.

“In our initial strategising we figured out where we should be at and we are at precisely where we thought we would be,” he said.

The inevitable coalition question was raised. “Our ardfheis has decided very, very clearly we will not be a junior partner with any of those establishment parties.”

Later he did another interview, this time for a Northern Ireland broadcaster.

Asked, again, about coalition, he said: “I’m minded, and Northerners will know this, of the time the DUP used to say they wouldn’t go into power with us, the time the UUP used to say the same thing.

“Not only did we get into power together but we made it work despite our difficulties.”

And in praise of his Northern colleagues, he said: “I have to say, some of the unionist leaders could teach manners to some of the political leaders here in terms of putting the primacy of the peace process, of trying to build respect for each other first.”

But what he got in the South was “the negativity, the very strident, offensive, vindictive attempt to distract attention from the real issues”.

There was “them” - the “three big conservative parties” - and “there’s us”.

He also had a message for the media in the South who had “yet to learn” the lessons of treating people properly.

He was talking about “respect for the mandate, for the people who give you the mandate”.

And he suggested that rather than the big parties picking up the phone to him, “we may be doing the ringing” and their first call would be to the 106 candidates in the Right2Change campaign who had “signed up to a manifesto that is broadly about the right to public services and decency”.

There was a cosy consensus between sections of the establishment media and the establishment parties, claimed Adams.

“We’re going to shatter that tomorrow because there’s a new kid on the block and it’s us and it’s Sinn Féin and we’re here to stay,” said the 67-year-old leader of a party in power in the North since 1998, and with TDs in the Dáil since 1997.