Adams’ civil rights ‘founding member’ claim rejected

Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams. 
Picture: Arthur Allison.
Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams. Picture: Arthur Allison.

The backlash against Gerry Adams over a racially offensive tweet has continued, along with increasing scrutiny of his claim he helped found the civil rights movement in Northern Ireland.

On Sunday night, the Sinn Fein president caused outrage by tweeting, “Watching Django Unchained - A Ballymurphy n****r,”

The Oscar-winning film he was referring to has a storyline about slavery in America.

Mr Adams later admitted his controversial tweet was inappropriate, and deleted it, but called a press conference to defend his comparison between the African Americans’ struggle and Irish nationalism.

The Louth TD then provoked ridicule from political rivals, and many others on social media, when he claimed he had been one of the founding members the NI Civil Rights Association (NICRA) - while still a teenager.

Political commentator and former SDLP councillor Brian Feeney said Mr Adams - who was 18-years-old in February 1967 - is mistaken in his recollection.

“Everyone knows who the founder members were, who set up the civil rights association,” he said.

“Gerry Adams was involved in protests about housing and tenants’ associations in Divis Flats, and he joined the civil rights association, but he certainly wasn’t involved in founding the civil rights association,” Mr Feeney added.

Lifelong socialist activist Marian Donnelly was heavily involved with NICRA as the fledgling organisation began to establish itself in the late 1960s.

The Workers Party member attended many party gatherings to discuss strategy but has no recollection of ever meeting the current Sinn Fein leader or hearing any reference to him.

“Gerry Adams’ name was never mentioned, even when I was secretary of the branch and attending meetings in Belfast - I never heard tell of Gerry Adams,” Ms Donnelly said.

“I was the secretary of the South Derry NICRA, and also and individual member.

“He was not what you would call a founding member, but he could have been at a meeting, which was open to the public, at the International Hotel.

“He could have been there, I’m not sure. There were about 100 people there,” she added.

Following Mr Adams’ claim, Foyle SDLP tweeted: “The only person who believes Gerry Adams founded the civil rights movement is Gerry Adams.”

The party’s youth chairperson, Cliona McCarney, added: “Beyond belief. In no way, shape or form was Gerry Adams a founding member of the civil rights movement.”