The N Word

The use by Gerry Adams of the pejorative term “nigger” in one of his tweets has seen his reputation pulled into a maelstrom of controversy. The Irish Independent, hopeful that it might yet depict Adams as a Grand Imperial Wizard in the Ku Klux Klan, has been quick out of the traps to label the Adams tweet a racist slur.

It is anything but. Whatever we might think of Adams, he is not a racist and he did not use the  horrible racist term as a device for conveying racist connotations.  He most likely employed it, however inadequately, in the context he outlined: having watched the film Django Unchained, he decided to compare the experience of people in Ballymurphy to that of black citizens during the civil rights era in the US. Much as he compared his latest White House snub to the treatment of Rosa Parks. Much as John Lennon and Yoko Ono penned a song Woman is the Nigger of the World back in 1972.

The comparison might look exaggerated, something suggested by the former republican prisoner, Tim Brannigan, who happens to be black and has been the target of racist hate in West Belfast. Yet there are times when people resort to hyperbole to magnify whatever point they seek to make.

Given his contextualisation Adams could plausibly claim that what he is facing is a PC onslaught aimed at eradicating word crime while remaining wholly indifferent to the context is which the word is used.  Such a defence would be hindered by the fact that Adams is not a free speech advocate, having long preferred the censorship of opinions he disagrees with.

Whatever way it is played for political advantage, or out of genuine abhorrence, in the heel of the hunt Adams cannot have been oblivious to the way his comment would be taken up and used as a stick to beat both him and the party he leads. He sought to neither protect himself or his party in the run up to an election, even through the use of inverted commas.

In terms of hogging the limelight last night’s N tweet was comparable to earlier tweets about bouncing around trampolines naked with a dog. Nobody seems to believe he actually did that. It is hard to imagine that a greater number genuinely feel his N comment was intended as a racist slur. At worst his pompous self-importance has led to him to place himself at the centre of media attention in the run up to an election in which he is not even a candidate. As the republican activist Nuala Perry once summed matters up: it is all about him. His seeming addiction to controversy, whatever the cost to his party, or its electoral fortunes, is more the product of an egotistical mind rather than the strategic one he is often credited with possessing. 

The real N word at play here is not Nigger, but Narcissism.

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Anthony McIntyre

Former IRA prisoner, spent 18 years in Long Kesh. Free Speech advocate, writer, historian, humanist, and researcher.

16 comments to ''The N Word"

  1. Or do you think the Joe 90 Guerilla genius the BBC Panarama program created in the 70s is actually just fik as phuk?

  2. Anthony,

    I don't doubt that Gerry Adams was once a shrewd political operator, but it's patently obvious that he isn't anymore. Indeed, in terms of Sinn Féin's public image in the South and its performance on the broadcast media, I think Adams has been far more of a liability than an asset for the best part of a decade now.

    His cringey Twitter persona reminds me of some desperate, middle-aged dad trying to look cool in front of his teenage kids' friends by telling "ironic" jokes and strumming on his electric guitar. Sinn Féin would have actually have it easier if they made Alan Partridge their president instead!

  3. Adams is just a big attention whore, who the fuck in these days would use the word anyway?

  4. I don't think this was about Adams. SF need 30 seats, they only have 29 (DUP have 38) the shinners need 30.
    30 is the magic number for them not to be reliant on any other party for petitions of concern. They need an extra seat,
    So they're trying to hold on to what they've got plus gain a seat, they can only do that by increasing their vote. That's going
    to be difficult. Adams rode into town to help out, instead he brought negative publicity. I think he apologised somewhere for it.
    This was a definite mistake. Maybe he had a few too many? Whatever, among themselves it's went down like a lead balloon.

  5. Whilst I hate the use of the word, and understand its history, and personally wouldnt use it in any context because it never sounds quite proper, some perspective is needed. Use of a racist word these days invites physical and mental attacks,and can remove you from all spheres of public life. The more drastically you react to the word, the greater the virtue you signal.
    You see the same sentiment in the 'foaming with outrage' journos that followed Ken Livingstone around last week calling him anti-semite. Ken like Gerry Adams just got it wrong, he really shouldnt be defined by this tweet anymore than his trampolining one, he simply isnt a racist.

  6. i wonder is there any black dude in ballymurphy, and what does he think about all this. maybe he can sort all this out. there must be at least one brother up in the murph.

  7. Adams is not a racist and solidarity with oppressed peoples has a long tradition in Ireland from Daniel O'Connell to Belfast Punk Band Stiff Little Fingers who sang a song called Green Wogs -(historically wogs was the British term and nigger was more commonly used in the US -it should also be remembered that the Irish were also slaves -and treated worse than black slaves.)

  8. Green Wogs first song on the Inflammable Material album:

  9. Whether Gerry Adams is a racist is not really the issue. A person might not be racist per say but what value they put on human life is most important. Can one treat humans as a means to an end? This twitter statement by Adams is not a minor, frivolous or inconsequential matter not least because it is from the president of a political party. There is the question of his judgement,the context of his statement and the reason behind it to be considered. To me twitter, a questionable silly film and the flippant use of phrases are all totally inappropriate medium to bring up such an important and serious issues of Irish and American history.

  10. Never mind the 'N' word he doesn't even qualify as a'black-bastard' coz they're all in the RUC.

  11. Gerry Adams is not racist and those who claim he is are little better than reactionary scum using millions of peoples suffering to advance their neo liberal political cause. We have had it in England recently when the media and their political gophers claimed Ken was a racist.

    When some of his accusers and those who have now condemned Adams were supporting the apartheid regime in SA Livingstone and Adams were in the same trench as the ANC and MK.

  12. So Gerry Adams said >niggerin a tweet and kept it almost in context.. it was electioneering at it's worst.... and everyone gets their knickers in a twist....>

  13. Not YOU Frankie I have it on good authority you go comando.

  14. Seamas,

    what you wrote would make an excellent standalone article. If agreeable we would like to run it as a piece rather than a comment.

  15. Certainly Anthony, go raibh maith agat.

  16. Seamas,

    we ran the piece before the new comment came to our attention.

    It is a good piece.



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