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Troubling thing is Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams actually believes own propaganda

By Malachi O'Doherty

Published 03/05/2016

Gerry Adams at Connolly House, Andersonstown Road Belfast. Picture Colm O'Reilly Presseye
Gerry Adams at Connolly House, Andersonstown Road Belfast. Picture Colm O'Reilly Presseye

The big question hanging over Gerry Adams is whether he believes that the experience of life in Ballymurphy was comparable to the suffering of African American slaves - or whether he has just over-reached himself in familiar propaganda.

He has certainly been saying as much for a long time, though not previously using the offensive n-word.

In his pamphlet, Peace In Ireland, which he wrote in 1977 in Long Kesh, he described British rule in Northern Ireland as "one of the most corrupt imperial manifestations that humanity has ever known".

He wrote that the suffering caused by imperialist oppression and conquest included unemployment and bad housing and he offered Ballymurphy as an example of this.

He should have known that 'humanity' had known worse conditions than those in Ballymurphy under imperialist oppression, say in Bengal or the Warsaw Ghetto, on plantations in the American south, or in South African townships. He appeared not to.

He wrote that the demands of the people of Ballymurphy were for "freedom from heavy rents for homes they will never own". They wanted "employment, better housing, play centres, facilities for the aged, the handicapped and the young".

Without these, peace could not be expected, for these very deprivations made violence inevitable.

He seemed not to notice that similar estates had been built in England and the Republic.

Now he has been at it again, absurdly exaggerating the grievances of nationalists, primarily to justify an IRA campaign which inflicted its own horrors on them.

He was speaking yesterday, in an effort to patch up the damage caused by his use of the n-word.

"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."

This is all nonsense. There is a huge case to be made for the denial of rights to people in Northern Ireland under the old Stormont regime, but this is not it. It is so easily refutable that the trouncing of this nonsense risks giving the impression that there was no problem at all, but whose fault is that but the myth-maker's, the dissembler's, the propagandist's?

It is simply a lie that Northern nationalists were "denied the right to vote". Had that been the case there would have been no nationalist MPs in Stormont. There would have been no Republican Labour MP in Westminster.

The incendiary moment which brought many of Gerry's peers into the IRA - the rioting during the election campaign of October 1964 - would not have happened, because neither Billy McMillan nor any other nationalist would have been campaigning for votes.

Yes, there was a restriction on the franchise to local government to householders, graduates, business people, but unfair as that was, it was not targeted at nationalists. Gerry says it was.

He says nationalists were "denied the right to work". They were discriminated against by some employers but they were not refused the right to work. Nor does Gerry seriously believe they were, surely? Surely he is only spouting such nonsense to appease foreign supporters who might not know any better.

And where people could not get jobs, they were paid unemployment benefit. Indeed, whether employed or not, they received Family Allowance for their children. That system could be criticised as inadequate, it cannot be compared to slavery.

He says people were "denied the right to a home", but Ballymurphy, where the Adams family lived, was built by the local authority Housing Trust.

Ballymurphy was not salubrious but it was a lot better than the cramped redbrick terraces of the lower Falls. It was also a mixed estate at first.

There was segregated schooling, of course, at that time, as there still is; but it was not imposed by the state. The Catholic Church insisted on segregation. When the Executive proposed last year to desegregate the training of teachers, Sinn Fein opposed that. Try explaining that in Arkansas or Mississippi.

Despite all these anomalies in Adams's attempt to conflate the experience of African American slaves with that of Irish nationalists in Ballymurphy under "one of the most corrupt imperial manifestations that humanity has ever known", I suspect he believes what he says.

He has been indicted of racism, and yet argues plausibly that he has long had friendships and allegiances with black people. He was a special guest at Nelson Mandela's funeral, and that would not have happened if the ANC had taken him for a racist. But his defence of his decision to compare Ballymurphy with Mississippi, is that he is right; that he suffered just as much there as slaves suffered on the plantation. This indicts him of naivete, ignorance, not knowing what he is talking about.

It disqualifies him from being taken seriously as a politician.

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