Gerry Adams' silence on Kevin McGuigan murder is deafening
Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams tweets relentlessly about every subject under the sun, says Eilis O'Hanlon. So why has he remained so quiet about the brutal killing of Kevin McGuigan?
Twitter makes fools of the most unlikely candidates. Otherwise serious-minded public figures seem to forget that they're on a public platform that can be viewed by anyone with an internet connection, and instead treat the social media site as if it was a private playground, where they can say anything, no matter how ill-advised or inappropriate.
Just call it 'Sally Bercow syndrome'.
It's often what a tweeter doesn't say that is most striking, however. Take Gerry Adams. The SF president is a relentless tweeter. He tweets about sport. He tweets about poetry.
He tweets pictures of what the "little people" in his life are doing.
He even commits the cardinal sin of social media by posting up pictures of his dinner, as well as managing most evenings, shortly before going to sleep, to wish his 87,000 followers a good night (or "oiche mhaith", as he writes it in Irish).
There still remains one subject on which Gerry Adams has been uncharacteristically quiet in the last week or so, and that is the brutal murder of Kevin McGuigan at his home in the Short Strand.
McGuigan was gunned down in front of his wife last Wednesday by two masked men who then made their escape on foot. Who they were is officially unknown, but there are suggestions that he may have been killed because he was suspected by some of being behind the murder of Gerard 'Jock' Davison in the Markets area in May.
Both men were former IRA volunteers, and together headed up the Provo front organisation Direct Action Against Drugs in the 1990s. Davison also ordered the infamous murder of Belfast man Robert McCartney in 2005.
Hardly insignificant figures in republican circles then - so why has Gerry Adams found time to tweet pictures of a freshly-baked rhubarb tart, but not to comment on a savage murder that could have serious political implications, especially as police yesterday confirmed it was the work of IRA members?
At the very least it seems an odd omission, and it can't even be argued in his favour that Adams prefers to keep Twitter for less serious matters, because the SF leader did send out a tweet on May 5, the day of that earlier murder: "Time for sleep. Thoughts r with Jock Davison's family. Oiche mhaith."
He's also tweeted in recent weeks to offer his condolences to the family of another republican, Paul Corrigan from Fermanagh, who died in June (SF issued a Press statement at the time to chronicle Adams' "deep sense of sadness" about that), as well as offering sympathy on Twitter to the family of the Irish woman killed in the recent terror attack in Tunisia; to the young Irish students tragically killed by a balcony fall in Berkeley, California, and even to mark the passing of the much-loved RTE sports presenter Bill O'Herlihy, who died of cancer in May.
On Tuesday, meanwhile, he could be found tweeting that he was at the funeral of another republican "friend and comrade", Biddy McMahon.
McGuigan's funeral was being held on the same day, but again there was not a word about it on Gerry Adams' timeline, despite making the effort over the weekend to take a grisly photograph of a deceased animal and post it online with the curiously capitalised message: "Dead Hedgehog On The Side Of The Road Stinking To High Heavens." (Any psychologists out there fancy a go at deciphering that?).
Now, let's be fair, it could be that Adams is merely waiting for confirmation of who exactly was responsible for this latest murder before commenting publicly on it, though that would still be odd.
Should it really be necessary to know who gunned down a grandfather in the street before offering sympathy to the man's friends and family? He didn't wait for a solution to Jock Davison's still unsolved murder before doing so, after all. Nor should he have. Human decency doesn't need to wait for details before expressing itself.
Either way it should certainly not be taken from Adams' Twitter silence that this is any kind of proof that the IRA may indeed have been behind the killing, no sirree, because while Adams would certainly be much less likely to make any public statement that might be taken as critical of the IRA if he happened to know that it was back in business, how could he possibly know such a thing? Sure, Gerry was never a member of any terrorist organisation, and those pictures of him playing soldiers in a beret were just taken at a fancy dress party.
And besides, haven't police and politicians been lining up to warn against speculating about who killed Kevin McGuigan? They're right. Speculation is counterproductive. So let's just stick to facts.
The facts in this case being that, had a former senior Belfast republican of Gerry's generation been gunned down in the street by loyalists, or security service personnel, or criminal elements, or even succumbed to serious illness, Gerry Adams would surely have found time in his busy schedule to make mention of it on Twitter, as he has did for Jock Davison and others.
He has a tendency to sentimentalise the lives of one-time hard men like Kevin McGuigan, and his itchy fingers would be unlikely to miss the opportunity to compose 140 characters to pay his respects at the passing of a member of an organisation that he continues to eulogise, in the run-up to centenary of the Easter Rising, as noble freedom fighters.
Instead, a former senior republican was shot at point-blank range in Belfast, and Adams - who has sent nearly 9,000 tweets during his time on the social media site, at a rate of over 160 tweets a month, or more than five every day - has not, on any of the days since McGuigan died, used a single one of those messages to comment on the murder.
Those are facts. And in response to such intriguing facts, it is legitimate to ask a simple question: Why?