Belfast Telegraph

Gerry Adams does equality a disservice

Editor's Viewpoint

Gerry Adams has had another of those unguarded moments when addressing the party faithful. Remember his off-the-cuff "they haven't gone away" remark about the IRA at a Belfast rally in 1995? Now he has been forced to apologise for controversial comments about "breaking the b******s".

In a rambling apology it was still unclear just who he was referring to. Unionists naturally claimed it was all of them and their supporters, while Adams suggested it was aimed at unidentified bigots.

But that was the least serious gaffe in his speech in Enniskillen, where he claimed that republicans were using the equality agenda as a Trojan horse to advance their long-term Irish unity aims.

At a stroke he has undermined demands for equality of esteem for the Irish language. Most fair-minded people found the antics of the DUP's Gregory Campbell in poking fun at the Irish language both in the chamber at Stormont and at the party conference juvenile, undignified, unfunny and stupid. The Irish language is not the preserve of republicans and those who see it as part of their culture were offended by the actions of the East Londonderry MP and MLA.

And those same people wondered why the DUP leadership did not attempt to rein in Campbell. What did that say about the party's commitment to the current talks?

Now the agenda has changed completely. Adams' Trojan horse remark can only be interpreted one way. He is saying that the fight for equality is just another weapon in the republican's long war. They want to create a situation where Irish unity is regarded as the natural progression for Northern Ireland.

But Adams should heed recent polls in this newspaper which show that the demand for Irish unity has fallen as nationalists feel more comfortable - and more equal - in Northern Ireland.

His remarks are also an insult to those genuinely working for equality of esteem for all people here. That is a wholly desirable end in itself without any agenda tacked onto it.

Of course, this latest row creates great interest on social media and comment boards or political discussion programmes, but most ordinary people just want the politicians to stop bickering and concentrate on the real issues such as the economy, job creation, health queues and under-performing schools.

They haven't gone away either, you know.

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