The N word means Never, for Gerry Adams too

Inside politics: ‘The misjudgement involved in Adams’ tweet was galling and immediate’

In the insular world of Irish political reporting, it takes a huge event to knock the current obsession - government formation - off the front page.

But Gerry Adams' by-now notorious tweet, "Watching Django Unchained - A Ballymurphy N*****r!" did just that. Especially because he not only referred to the 'N' word but spelled it out.

Adams has come out with some very strange tweets in his time, but the misjudgement and inappropriateness involved in this one was galling and immediate.

The word is racist and a slur. It is not appropriate to use it in any circumstances. Full stop.


Adams (or those who advise him) knew it was wrong and the tweet was hastily removed after ten minutes.

The Sinn Féin leader should have issued a contrite apology for the appalling gaffe (and by any yardstick, the tweet was crass).

Instead, we witnessed a drawn-out, self-serving series of tweets and statements, putting it all into context over the next 12 hours.

The subliminal message: Anyone who knows Gerry knows he does not have a racist bone in his body and is never wrong and can never be challenged on anything he says.

It was pretty numbing stuff. It shows either how much Adams’s mistakes (and they are mounting) are indulged within Sinn Féin; or how out-of-touch he and his kitchen cabinet are.

First up was a tweet: “Any1 who saw Django would know my tweets&N-word were ironic.Nationalists in Nth were treated like African Americans.”

The thesis behind this ‘context’ tweet was that the experience of Northern nationalists was somehow equivalent to the experience of African Americans. Cromwell and 800 years of perfidious Albion were drawn in.

And in a statement released in the early hours of Monday morning, as the controversy went international, Adams implied those who took offence had only themselves to blame.

“If anyone is genuinely offended by my use of the N-word they misunderstand or misrepresent the context in which it was used. For this reason I deleted the tweets.”

So they were wrong. Not him.

The penny finally dropped on Monday with a reluctant apology.

But what followed was a blitzkrieg of ‘context’ and self-justification that diluted the apology to almost nothing.

Here is a sample:

"Like African Americans Irish nationalists were denied basic rights. The penal laws, Cromwell's regime, and partition are evidence of that. In our own time, like African Americans nationalists in the North, 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. The civil rights movement here, of which I was a founding member, was inspired and based its approach on the civil rights campaign in the USA.”

That reference to him being there at the start of the civil rights movement raised more than a couple of eyebrows, giving the uncivil nature of what he was involved in the next two decades of his career.

Aine Lawlor nailed it on RTÉ's News at One yesterday, when she told Adams he could not even begin to compare those who were treated as second-class citizens in the North with those who were treated as possessions, were slaughtered, enslaved, maimed in their millions, and were treated as not belonging to the human race.

And still, the party’s legion of supporters on social media made it into a ‘them versus us’ story, attacking anybody who had the temerity to criticise Adams.

That was truly depressing.

Jam Tomorrow

We are going to have a Government this week. I know we wrote that last week, and the week before, and the week before that.

But we really, really think it is going to happen this week.

Sure, what could go wrong? Fine Gael has squared it with Fianna Fáil. They only need to get a handful of Independents on board. Easy peasy, isn't it?

Well, we will see.

It is a bit like the conversation Alice had with the Queen in Lewis Carroll's Through the Looking Glass.

“The rule is, jam to-morrow and jam yesterday--but never jam to-day.”

“It MUST come sometimes to “jam to-day,”’ Alice objected.

“No, it can’t,” said the Queen.”

Look at Spain. An election on December 10th, 2015. First it looked like Rajoy would form a coalition government. Then the Socialists looked poised. Now they are all heading back to another election after failing to get anywhere.

There will be ongoing problems. If water charges are gone forever, and there is some inept doomed-to-fail scheme to collect arrears, there is going to be blowback from those who were compliant and paid, and feel bitter that those who did not bother paying will get away with it. And it will be Fianna Fáil which might be the more obvious (and deserving) target of that ire.

On the actual date, it was interesting to hear Michael Fitzmaurice yesterday express a note of caution about it all being done on Thursday, saying that target was too ambitious.

Meanwhile, things grind on. The Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil parliamentary parties are meeting today. Both will get sight of the document and are expected to approve it.

It will then have to be distributed to the Independents. If there is any major impediment for that motley collection in the document, it will be back to square one.

Here is our latest update on the talks.

Jam tomorrow. Jam yesterday. But no jam today.