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Gerry Adams denies being member of farmers' union IFA

Sinn Fein's president Gerry Adams sat bolt upright in his seat.

"I made it very, very clear that I am not and was not a member of the IFA (Irish Farmers Association) -- so let's put that to one side," he said.

He then broke into a broad smile. It was a rare moment of levity for Mr Adams in a campaign of dramatically mixed fortunes for him and his party.

Mr Adams -- who was canvassing with Sinn Fein candidates in Cork yesterday -- clearly enjoyed his recollection of a Louth farmers' meeting over the weekend.

But the smiles and laughter didn't fully cover over the cracks in a Sinn Fein election campaign that could have been great for the party, but is now likely to prove merely good.

To paraphrase former US president Bill Clinton, the "it's the economy, stupid" priority of General Election 2011 has wounded a Sinn Fein party whose economic manifesto has, to say the least, failed to win over the undecided voters.

But there have been positives. Repeated attacks by Fianna Fail have been interpreted as proof that Sinn Fein has the bigger republican party seriously worried.

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In a comment yesterday aimed to wound in Micheal Martin's native 'Rebel County', Mr Adams said those who gave their lives for Irish independence would be appalled by what had happened on Fianna Fail's watch since 2008.

"I heard one of the Fine Gael representatives say we want to have our economic independence back by 2016 -- the men and women of 1916 must be turning in their graves at what has been done in this republic by very, very bad conservative parties and the elites that they represent," he added.

Dismissed as irrelevant a few short years ago, Sinn Fein is anticipating record gains -- a solid foothold on which to build.

But yesterday Mr Adams was in slick, soundbite mode.

One reporter had the temerity to ask what was the difference he noted between elections to the Dail and to Westminister?

"I'll be taking my seat," the Sinn Fein leader smiled.

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