Gerry Adams has made an apology to African-Americans for using the ‘N’ word to liken their plight to that of the Catholics of Northern Ireland. ‘Watching Django Unchained,’ he tweeted, ‘a Ballymurphy N****r!’ But he hasn’t yet apologized for the underlying message of the tweet; that here was anything whatever in common between the plight of the slaves of the American antebellum South and that of the Ulster Catholics of Ballymurphy, West Belfast.
As an insight into Gerry Adams’ psychology and belief system, of course, the tweet is invaluable, and not just because he felt that as a white man he had the right to use the single most offensive word in the racial lexicon. He obviously genuinely does believe that the Catholics he claims to represent either were or still are treated as badly as African-American slaves during the pre-Civil War period. This exhibits that fascinating combination of ahistorical ignorance and vaulting self-pitying victimhood so typical of Irish nationalist myth-making.
In attempting to try to justify his comments, Gerry Adams has said: ‘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 subjected to draconian laws.’ Needless to say this was for American consumption, because in Britain we know each of these accusations to be a blatant lie. Not only did Catholics have the right to vote from the 1830s, but they had hundreds of MPs both in Stormont and at Westminster which would have been impossible otherwise. Yes, many of them did suffer religious discrimination at work, but huge numbers were in employment and of course they had the legal right to work throughout history. As the Belfast Telegraph point out, not only did Ulster Catholics have the right to a home but the Adams family’s own home was provided by the local authority as were millions of others.
As for ‘draconian laws’, Gerry Adams does indeed genuinely seem to believe that they can be equated to those of the American South, where blacks genuinely could not vote, could not marry or even own property without their owners’ consent, were subjected to vicious corporal punishment on the say-so of their overseers with no legal recourse, and had no civil rights whatever. African-Americans should be outraged at having their plight in any way compared to Gerry Adams’ constituents’, whether he uses foul racial epithets or not.
In a pamphlet he wrote in 1977, Adams said that the citizens of Ballymurphy suffered under ‘one of the most corrupt imperial manifestations that humanity has ever known’. Tamburlaine creating a mountain of skulls a hundred feet high? The Sack of Delhi by Nader Shah of Persia? The plight of the Native Americans on their reservations after Little Bighorn? the treatment of the Congolese by King Leopold II of the Belgians? The rape of Nanking? The crushing of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising and the Babi Yar Massacre? No, it was life in Northern Ireland in the 1960s that produced ‘one of the most corrupt imperial manifestations that humanity has ever known’.
Adams obviously believes such rot, with every fibre of his being, but just because he still uses language that should have died out 150 years ago, it doesn’t mean that he knows anything worthwhile about the past.