So what’s the difference between ‘Clampett tweets” and “Clampett politics”?

Nice to see Newton Emerson being allowed to settle a few pieces of nonsense that have been allowed to grow into mainstream wisdom. One (and we are likely to see this reflected quite starkly in the voter patterns of West Belfast today) is that…

…in Northern Ireland, an Adams gaffe is mainly just a reminder the Sinn Féin president still exists. From a unionist perspective, he emigrated five years ago. I realise that term sounds overblown – Dundalk is hardly as foreign as France.

However, readers in the South should consider how indifferent they are to the North, then realise this effect works both ways. Most of the time, Adams is out of Northern sight and mind.

Nevertheless, the boss is still the boss, and MEP Martina Anderson is compelled to defend her party leader, no matter what. Mark Rainey the News Letter notes how she’s been digging in exactly where Eamonn McCann warned the party not to go.

Ms Anderson’s claims appear to come the blogpost, which goes even further than Mr Adams by reporting that African slaves were treated “much better” than the Irish.

Among other statements with no listed source, the blogger writes: “Although the Africans and Irish were housed together and were the property of the planter owners, the Africans received much better treatment, food and housing.”

Tweeting unresearched nonsense is one thing, but the pure unquestioning nature of the lifting is another.

Hugh Lenihan in the Irish Times quotes the historian Liam Hogan’s work…

…false equivalence between the treatment of African slaves and of indentured Irish servants in the 17th and 18th century has become popular in far-right and white supremacist circles in the US and elsewhere as a means of delegitimising African-American political movements and playing down the grim history of centuries of institutionalised racism and slavery.

But what does this say about Sinn Fein and it’s actual political nouse (as opposed to the one it is widely reputed to have)?

Newton Emerson (who is on something of a roll these days) neatly sums it up:

Adams’s strange new Southern image is not harmless when it intrudes on Northern consciousness. It is a final insult to the bereaved that one of the main protagonists of the Troubles has turned out to be, as we say in these parts, a clampett. Yet the Louth TD’s social media persona has not been constructed with us in mind.

Adams joined Twitter in 2011 and used it conventionally for a few months before losing interest. In 2013, after the Dublin press mocked him for having rectal surgery in New York courtesy of a wealthy American benefactor, he suddenly resumed tweeting with a reference to a bicycle ride, crudely implying the surgery had been successful. It has been all downhill from there.

The Sinn Féin president is almost literally making a Southern arse of himself.

Harsh words. The question is; is this ‘Clampett’ approach to politics as successful in the way many observers imagine it is? Cast a glance at last February’s election in the south, most northern commentaries have focused on the parties gains rather than the reality of the outcome.

But I’d cite four points, worth considering further:

  • The object of that election was to track and preferably overtake their rivals in Fianna Fail. Going into that election SF were just six seats adrift. Coming out of if they found themselves a full twenty TDs behind in the Dail. The numbers don’t lie.
  •  Pulling out of the field afterwards was tactically cute (withdraw and snipe at anyone who tries to make it work) but strategically foolish. The 23 votes they have may have been a disappointment internally, but they were saleable assets in the market. Result: they’ve been sidelined.
  • Fianna Fail having brokered the space for Enda to come back as Taoiseach (probably in a vote tomorrow) Micheal Martin has resumed his position at the head of the Opposition, and his new Deputies will force the Sinn Féin team further round into the (naughty) corner.
  • A large latent majority at his back, Martin has forced on Fine Gael a tidy if modest social democratic agenda. The opposition at large has the opportunity to make and amend law from scratch and force it on the government. Not great conditions for SF’s oppositionist gesture politics.

The opportunity for a creative opposition to make the political weather has increased immensely just as the opportunities for SF (and FF) skirmishing and messing of old are vastly diminished. That’s about as thoughtful and strategic a position as the Bosses’ tweet on Saturday night.

The party does do two things extraordinarily well, which is to raise money and to keep discipline. On the evidence of their southern game, they don’t do competitive politics quite so well.

With the election settled by Saturday afternoon and negotiations for a PfG starting shortly afterwards, it’s going to be an interesting couple of weeks.


Mick is founding editor of Slugger. He has written papers on the impacts of the Internet on politics and the wider media and is a regular guest and speaking events across Ireland, the UK and Europe. Twitter: @MickFealty

  • Croiteir

    I take it that Newton isn’t familar with Thomas Sowell who stated in his opus Ethnic America.

    “This was not mere rhetoric. Slaves in the United States had a longer life expectancy than peasants in Ireland, ate better, and lived in cabins built of sturdier materials, with more space, ventilation, and privacy, than the huts of contemporary Irish peasants. It is unnecessary to attempt to say who was worse off on net balance. The mere fact that such a comparison could be made indicates something of the desperate poverty of Irish peasants in the 1830s” (p. 18).

    Later, Sowell compares the brutality of the slave trade’s Atlantic crossing with that of the Irish migration:
    “Inadequate food, water, and sanitation made ocean crossings dangerous to health and life. In the most disastrous year of all, 1847, about 20 percent of the huge famine immigration died en route to America or upon landing. This was about 40,000 dead—mostly young people in the prime of life. By comparison, the loss of life among slaves transported from Africa in British vessels in the nineteenth century was about 9 percent” (p. 22).

  • Croiteir

    And here is the wiki on Sowell – the epitome of white right wing racists – ooops – no wait.

  • chrisjones2

    which shows the advantage of transporting them in rows on decks about 3 feet apart and all chained together. …….. is that really what you are arguing? For example what was the age profile, health when boarding ship and duration of the voyages? was it a like for like comparison? But hey never let that get in the way of a good MOPE

    And one further thing – if you accept Stowell as true – you have to ask what the hell the Irish themselves were doing about it? Most of them chose to emigrate and paid their passage. They were not indentured and yet you suggest that the the design shape and upkeep of their huts was the fault of someone else? Perhaps they should sue the US Government for compensation as clearly as soon as they fled the wicked Brits and landed in the US they fell into the clutches of even more wicked Americans. SF should start a campaign on this and attack the evil capitalist USA. I wish them success. Mope Mope Mope

  • chrisjones2

    “With the election settled by Saturday afternoon and negotiations for a PfG starting shortly afterwards, it’s going to be an interesting couple of weeks.”

    All together now – “Oh no its not”

  • Redstar

    Far from a fan of Adams but Emersons trendy unionist position of rewriting the history of the bigoted Northern statelet is nothing new. For him and others it was generally a statelet of equals….Sure, the taigs got a bit of a bad deal but overall things were pretty fair

  • Graham Parsons

    So is Emerson saying that SF shouldn’t use social media in case they upset the bereaved of the troubles? No one is forcing anyone to follow Adams on Twitter and if anyone is keeping this non-issue alive its the journalist himself.

  • chrisjones2

    Oh wash your mouth out

    And wasn’t it shocking that some Prods were also housed in the dreaded hovels in the Murph (which were based on UK Public Housing Standards. Indeed it appears many of them lived there through most of the 1960s quite happily existing alongside their Catholic neighbours until they were intimidated out by the IRA. – as many Catholics were by Loyalists in other areas

    Gerry seems to have forgotten that bit

  • mickfealty

    Yes Graham, and no one is forcing Adams to talk utter seafóid.

  • mickfealty

    Where exactly does Emerson say any of that? I have not said any of that either. History is history, the point here is that the politics underwriting this (very specific) nonsense on stilts is seriously faulty.

  • Graham Parsons

    >Gerry seems to have forgotten that bit<

    You can only get 140 characters on a tweet.


  • Graham Parsons

    Man talks shite on social media. Who’d have thought.

  • Phil

    “Adams then claimed to have founded the Civil Rights Association at the age of 19 to throw off his chains, although none of the official founders recalls his involvement and the association had achieved all its goals on housing, jobs and the vote by 1972, rendering the Provisional IRA campaign completely illegitimate.”

    Yeah, can’t think of anything that happened in 1972 that convinced nationalists that an armed response would be legitimate…

  • Croiteir

    No i am not arguing that at all. I am showing that a professional coloured author of considerable standing considered the plight of irish emigrants fleeing the famine was worse than that of African slaves as far as conditions on the ships were concerned. The motive force which put them on those ships is not being argued at all.

    And again I suggest nothing but what the disinterested historian has documented.

    Your argument is with him and I am sure that your standing in this is as respected internationally as his so perhaps you can answer the questions you pose for us so we can share in your erudition

  • Croiteir

    Yes it is tragic that poor whites existed in apartheid south Africa and southern USA but hey. Some feckless people cannot advance no matter what advantage they have.

  • babyface finlayson

    Surely Adams was talking about life in Ballymurphy and comparing it to the life of black slaves in 19th century mississippi.
    Was that a valid comparison?

  • Declan Doyle

    It has become popular in recent times to downplay the atrocious treatment of the Irish over the centuries, with millions unnecessarily dead or emigrated to far flung parts, the true story sits uncomfortably in this new age of warmth and friendliness with our English neighbours. Unionism has done its best to carry the revisionist torch as it offers an opportunity to deny the transgressions of the post 1922 Unionist regime, hopping on the bandwagon so to speak; so it is no wonder that Newton will lend a hand to the latest round of subtle anti-Irish revisionist theory. The election shows that while commentators such as Newt make an arse of themselves predicting the demise of Gerry and SF, a significant number of voters -and growing- seem to be quite fond of Gerry’s Arse.

    Despite the media cleverly setting SF’s target for them, the object of the last election as far as Sinn Fein were concerned was to continue its growth; that it did admirably with Gerry Adams own constituency delivering amongst the highest growth constituencies and helping to bring in a second seat for the party. It appears that the right wing media cannot stop the growth of the party despite hysteric efforts, so now resort to underplaying gains as some sort of consolation prize for themselves.

    As far as the FF and FG coalition is concerned vis a vis SF; ‘Pulling out of the field’ – or more accurately; refusing to engage in the charade when you know you do not have the seats to form a government, is and was the right thing to do for a party who keeps its word and concerns itself with the real issues of the day rather than narrow political interests. A rarity in this day and age and something that many commentators will need time to adjust to.

    Michael Martin has assumed the position of de facto Tánaiste. Straddling government and opposition in a clever but wholly transparent attempt to hide behind the party’s failure to fulfil its two biggest promises; remove Enda and Abolish Irish Water. At the same time the general public role on the floor laughing at the notion FF could ever be socially democratic, or socially conscientious for that matter. This hands SF and the left the necessary tools to dismantle Fianna Fail’s deliberately disingenuous and self evident foolhardy deceit.

    Despite the tiresome media obsession with SF, it might help lift the affliction, to remember that The opposition includes SF, SD, PBP/AAA,Labour and many independents. when it comes to opposition politics, that colourful and prepped crew will have no problem taking the FG – FF government to task when they mess up; and given their pathological habit of shafting the Irish people, we won’t have long to wait.

  • Croiteir

    Maybe he was but I am commenting on the post which does refer to the Irish and coloured slaves in the same period.

  • Thomas Barber

    “Tweeting unresearched nonsense is one thing, but the pure unquestioning nature of the lifting is another”

    Its Newton who is talking nonesense.

    “African slaves were very expensive during the late 1600s (50 Sterling).
    Irish slaves came cheap (no more than 5 Sterling). If a planter whipped
    or branded or beat an Irish slave to death, it was never a crime. A
    death was a monetary setback, but far cheaper than killing a more
    expensive African. The English masters quickly began breeding the Irish
    women for both their own personal pleasure and for greater profit.
    Children of slaves were themselves slaves, which increased the size of
    the master’s free workforce. Even if an Irish woman somehow obtained her
    freedom, her kids would remain slaves of her master. Thus, Irish moms,
    even with this new found emancipation, would seldom abandon their kids
    and would remain in servitude”

  • Neil

    Spotted this which may be of additional interest on the subject of Irish slavery:

    Babyface F,

    I don’t believe Gerry was suggesting a like for like situation, nor do I believe he’s racist. It was a bit silly due to the entirely predictable reaction.

  • Declan Doyle

    Emerson has good form with his pro Unionist and sneering Sammy Wilson anti nationalist/republican agenda although that does not mean he is always on the wrong side of accurate. His obsession with Adams challenges his credibility – unfairly probably – but nevertheless, when hatred is so obvious; many ears switch off.

  • chrisjones2

    That is not the issue – what condition were then in when they embarked

  • Declan Doyle

    Here, cut out the facts man, don’t you know its uncool ???

  • aquifer

    Same period, different country. Europeans emigrated to America because living conditions were so much better. Sometimes keeping slaves in a better class of shed and feeding them was probably an economic decision based on their ability to perform forced labour more efficiently, amidst a general shortage of labour available to exploit American natural resources.

  • Declan Doyle

    Your contempt for the Irish and the plight of those who found themselves starving or close to starving is truly disturbing.

  • Neil

    That is not the issue – what condition were then in when they embarked

    Jesus wept. You’re all heart Chris. The condition of the commodity when the commodity “embarked” is the issue for you. And you have the neck to criticise Adams.

  • Croiteir

    No it is not the issue

  • Croiteir

    Seems reasonable to say that the economics made an American slave better of than an irish peasant

  • Thomas Barber

    Theres lots of books out there about Irish slaves White cargo is just one of them, great read and very informative, shows lots of records and reciepts, names of the slave traders and the conditions the Irish slaves were forced to endure. After reading it you realise why the John Sloop song being played outside an Irish Catholic church would be viewed as offensive. The British viiewed the Irish as nothing more than useful monkeys whilst slaves they lived like animals, worked like animals and were bred like animals.

  • aquifer

    Slaves had a known economic value on landing, so the owners would have taken some care to avoid deaths. Moreover African slaves would already have been kidnapped first for their likely strength and youth and then the healthiest re-selected for their likelihood of surviving the crossing.

    Adams is still adrift somewhere off the Boston bar.

  • Thomas Barber

    “Slaves had a known economic value on landing, so the owners would have taken some care to avoid deaths”

    Those with a bible in one hand and a sword in the other were not too moralistic when it came to punishment or caring for slaves. Thousands were thrown overboard thousands were beaten to death some burned alive or whipped to death and thousands if not millions simply did not survive the vovage.

  • Jollyraj

    “No i am not arguing that at all. I am showing that a professional coloured author ..:”

    Coloured?? Seriously?

    Ahh..the closet racism of the Irish. Often carefully concealed, but never far from the surface..

  • Devil Eire

    “..the closet racism of the Irish.”

    Your own unconscious racism is, however, on full display.

  • Geoffrey Trott

    Adams left the North because his chief Rival Martin is more popular than him. Went to seek his fortune in the South and presided over a lack luster campaign which was mostly his doing.
    Oh Dear
    How Sad
    Never Mind
    Lovely Boys

  • Jollyraj


    Please explain.

  • babyface finlayson

    You did say
    “I take it that Newton isn’t familar with Thomas Sowell “.
    That would not be relevant as he was talking about Adams’ tweet which was clearly about Ballymurphy.
    What are your thoughts on the Ballymurphy comparison?

  • babyface finlayson

    The trouble with tweets is there is no room for nuance or explanation. It clearly gave the impression of a like for like comparison.
    I agree he is not racist but it was a silly thing to say.

  • kensei

    I know, you never see Adams mentioned at all on Northern political blog sites. it’s like he’s invisible. The self awareness on display here is staggering.

    On your points. I predicted shortly after the election that FG would go for the strategically mad option of going into minority government while relying on FF votes, an lo! here we are. I reckon that’s a win for FF, on balance, but it isn’t exactly risk free. They are potentially on the hook for government policy which they’ll have little control over – and FG will likely pick up more of the credit if there is an upside. There are multiple ways to pay a price for it too – just get a bit too greedy and cynically collapse the government, for a start – so it’ll take a bit of skill to get through.

    Secondly, SF didn’t just take the ball away; they were also strategically shut out by FF and FG, both of which do not like the prospect of an SF led opposition and a push towards more right/left politics. So you are cherry picking a touch. It is also extremely difficult to go from 5 TDs to the main opposition, and Labour hasn’t really managed the position in many years of trying – and they are more established. Whatever SF want or commentators think, the most likely medium term success is usurping Labour – I’ve been saying this since FF crashed and morons were predicting the death of the most successful party in the state. The longer they hang in there in that position, the harder they become to ignore. If they can establish that platform, then they can go after main opposition.

    The biggest problem though, is that you are calling a game that is yet to play. 23 TDs – plus Senators, Councillors, MEPs and the rest – give SF a talent pool they haven’t really ever had. There is talk that Adams might want to do an orderly transition. We don’t know what way the economy will turn out, or other external events. In 2 years when the present agreement runs out, there might be another round of negotiation where SF are better placed.

    I’d say SF are better at competitive politics than they were 5 years ago, and significantly better than 10 so institutional learning is going on. Ultimately, this might be their high watermark for now. But I think where their new low watermark is probably more important for their long term influence on the politics of the Republic.

  • Ben De Hellenbacque

    Having read that link and seen the name,James II when James I (James II’s grandfather) should have been stated I ask myself how much accurate research has been done on this subject. I do accept fully that many Irish and ‘Old English’ were transported from Ireland to the West Indies inc the Barbadoes and some or all (I don’t yet know) transported further or directly to Virginia. Talk to any Montserratian and they will rapidly inform you of their Irish ancestry. Talk to any Badian/Bajan and they will tell you about the historic Irish population and the non integrated Redshanks who appear to be of both English & Irish extraction. Quite how they got there and under what circumstances seems to vary. Were some indentured ‘servants’? Were some slaves like the African and others? Were some prisoners of war after successive uprisings, not just the 1641 rebellion? Popery was sufficient for the charge of vagabondage and transportation was the consequence. There appears to be no distinction made between native Gael and Old English in this regard. Vagabondage was a problem in England too and it’s known that many English were also transported if deemed as vagrants. Some of Ireland’s Gael warriors were sent to Sweden to fight against Poland. These included those whose transport ship had to be moored for safe haven in the Low Countries and were set free and made their way to the household of the self exiled Mór O’Neill. XVII century Irish history, including forced transportation, is obviously very complex. As for emigration from Ireland, whether forced or otherwise, in later centuries when the African slave trade became established well that’s a different story.
    It’s also worth mentioning those Irish Wild Geese who benefited from the slave trade in the service of other monarchies.
    A former colleague of mine, living in West Belfast, is very familiar with the story of Walsh de Sérrant coming from very close to their chateau built on the profits of slavery. Btw he’s mixed race and proudly calls himself Breton. There’s ground for reflection there.

  • Ben De Hellenbacque

    Interesting that all the surnames are English. Drogheda being an English garrison town for most its history at that point but still predominantly old faith. Transportation was the penalty for popery and being Irish in all the extracts McIntyre cites.
    “21st May 1655.“To be transported to Barbados, any such persons of the Popish Religion and Irish Nation such are in prisons, as being rogues, vagrants, idlers and beggars.”

  • Thomas Barber

    “Having read that link and seen the name,James II when James I (James II’s grandfather) should have been state”

    Ben its your good self who needs to read up a little on Irish or British history where you will find that James I died in 1625 it was James II who reigned when Cromwell murdered and enslaved almost two thirds of the then Irish population of 1.6 million.

    Yes Scottch, Welsh and English beggars and convicts were transported overseas as slaves but not in the same numbers as Irish.

  • Devil Eire

    “Please explain”


    Racism: a belief that the members of different racial or ethnic groups possess specific characteristics (OED).

    “..the closet racism of the Irish. Often concealed, but never far from the surface.”

    In one step you went from alleging a negative characteristic in a single individual to assigning that characteristic to the whole of the individual’s assumed ethnic grouping.

    I’m sure the irony is obvious (to some at least).

  • Ben De Hellenbacque

    Excuse me???? NO-ONE REIGNED when Cromwell murdered and enslaved almost two thirds of the Irish population. All that happened during the Commonwealth or Interregnum, that is after the English Civil War and the decapitatation of Charles I. The next monarch was Charles II (called the Restoration) followed by his brother James II who wasn’t even born until 1633. Try googling some dates before your next howler!

  • Cosmo

    hello Ben, thanks for all the interesting research
    I doubt TB will be interested, but here’s a view on this Irish slave issue…‘irish-slaves’-convenient-myth

  • Jollyraj

    I see.

    So if I feel that a particular group (in this case the Irish) has marked racist leanings, it makes a racist out of me to point it out?

    Would it make me racist to point out that the KKK are racist?

    Your point makes no sense.

  • Devil Eire

    Hello, Zeno.

    “So if I feel that a particular group (in this case the Irish) has marked racist leanings, it makes a racist out of me to point it out?”

    If you are suggesting that all members of a particular race or ethnic group share a common characteristic, then yes, that is a racist sentiment.

    For example: “lazy Poles”, “stingy Chinese”, “intelligent Asians”, “racist Irish” – these are all racist statements.

    “Would it make me racist to point out that the KKK are racist?”

    No, because in the case of members of the KKK, your accusation of racism is based on the clearly racist aims and actions of that organization.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    mate, you’re hoisting yourself with your own petard of factual inaccuracy – really, that’s all over the place

  • MainlandUlsterman

    Adams has been such a blessing to us all