Adams proving to be a liability to his party
The Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams has once again made the wrong headlines by using the racist n-word in a most ill-advised remark in a tweet which he quickly deleted.
Already there are signs of division in Sinn Fein over the issue. Martin McGuinness was given an opportunity to back Adams, and he pointedly refused to do so. Meanwhile, Mary Lou McDonald tweeted that he was wrong to use such an offensive term.
First Minister Arlene Foster, admittedly no friend of Gerry Adams, led a chorus of condemnation across the political spectrum.
Adams' use of the offensive word is bad enough, but by suggesting that the life of his constituents in West Belfast was comparable to that of African slaves in America, he shows lamentable historical knowledge and a gross lack of judgment.
This latest Adams gaffe calls into question Sinn Fein's claim to be a modern, progressive party. If any unionist politician indulged in similar myth-making he or she would rightly attract widespread condemnation.
Gerry Adams' tweets have long been a divisive issue in his party.
Some supporters believe they are clever diversionary tactics, while others claim that such behaviour suggests evidence of Adams' wavering judgment.
This impression was compounded when Adams recently published a book of his tweets, which also provided evidence of a large ego.
While opposition from political opponents may merely persuade Adams to dig in as president, the lack of support from within his ranks is very significant at this stage. He cut a lonely figure while facing the media after his latest comment. Normally he is flanked by supporters, and his online backers are also noticeably quiet.
Adams has been president of Sinn Fein for 33 years, and he has successfully brushed off many major criticisms during that time. These include his constant denials of Provisional IRA membership, the abduction and murder of Jean McConville, and covering up for his brother Liam when he faced serious charges of child sexual abuse.
Many people are asking how long Sinn Fein can tolerate the reputational damage which its 67-year-old president trails in his wake. If he loses the support of his American backers over this latest n-gate incident that answer may come sooner rather than later.