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 www.kavanaghfamily.com, 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