Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams qualified his apology for tweeting the N-word to his 111,000 followers, but defended the “context” in which he used the term.
The Sinn Féin leader faced a significant backlash when, in reference to a Quentin Tarantino film which he had apparently just watched, he tweeted late on Sunday night: “Watching Django Unchained — A Ballymurphy N****r!”
While he said the tweet was deleted “quite soon afterwards”, it had been retweeted at least 143 times and liked at least 68 times.
Amid significant criticism both here and abroad, Sinn Féin issued a statement on its leader’s behalf in which he said the film was powerful and highlighted the injustices suffered by African Americans through its main character. “In my tweets I described him as a ‘Ballymurphy n……’ and ‘an uppity Fenian’,” he said. “I have acknowledged that the use of the N-word was inappropriate. That is why I deleted the tweet. I apologise for any offence caused.”
However, he said he stood over the “context and main point of my tweet” which, he said, were the parallels between people in struggle.
“Like African Americans Irish nationalists were denied basic rights. The penal laws, Cromwell’s regime, and partition are evidence of that. 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 subject to draconian laws.”
He said he was a founding member of the civil rights movement in Ireland and said it had inspired and based its approach on the civil rights campaign in the USA.
He later told RTÉ radio that “everybody knows I do not have a racist bone in my body” before adding: “Those people who are opposed to us will seize on this. Those people who are genuinely offended will given vent — and they are quite entitled to— to their feelings and opinions. But the vast majority of people will see this as a genuine mistake, the use of one word which was totally inappropriate and for which I have apologised.”
While there are parallels between people in struggle, the tweet was inappropriate" - Gerry Adams https://t.co/0kEyhj9FZd— Gerry Adams (@GerryAdamsSF) May 2, 2016
He also said he was “sober as a judge” when he sent the tweet.
The gaffe comes just weeks after Mr Adams was accused of comparing himself to civil rights icon Rosa Parks when he was excluded from a St Patrick’s Day celebration at the White House.
After being held up at security in Washington, he left and stated: “Sinn Féin will not sit at the back of the bus for anyone.”
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