Jude Collins

Friday, 28 January 2011

Gerry Adams can't spel!

High on my list of things that send me running for a pillow to pull over my head so I can shriek without sending the cat up the living-room curtain is the kind of person who goes on about literacy levels. “Kids today – they can’t spell!  They write ungrammatical sentences! What’s education come to if people can’t write?”  They then pull out several examples of these terrible sins and waggle their eyebrows at you. Granted, time spent doing this kind of thing keeps these critics off the streets or from torturing helpless animals,  but it ignores the fact that  Shakespeare consistently made spelling mistakes, that the final chapter of James Joyce’s masterpiece Ulysses  is without a single full stop, and that book shops and libraries are stuffed with unreadable books in which the spelling and punctuation are flawless.

In the past couple of days we’ve had similar brain-numbing nonsense about Sinn Féin’s economic competence. Gerry Adams was asked in a BBC interview the other day if he knew the child benefit rate in the south or the south’s VAT rate: he didn’t. This has been seized on as evidence that Mr Adams doesn’t know what he’s talking about in terms of the south’s economy, and that Sinn Féin as a party haven’t a clue about getting the south’s finances on an even keel. Final proof of this incompetence? Adams’s failure to answer the child benefit and the VAT questions are linked to his failure in a TV debate  with Michael McDowell of the PDs during the 2007 election.

Dear God. Supposing Gerry Adams had known what the child benefit rate was, and the VAT rate, and all the other facts and figures about the south’s finances…What would that have proved? Being able to spell and punctuate isn’t much use if you’ve got nothing useful to say; being able to reel off facts and figures is of little help if you can’t produce a strategy for getting the state’s finances in order. In the famous 2007 debate, McDowell was seen as having wiped the floor with Adams; what is glossed over is the fact that McDowell was spouting the Celtic-Tiger-hooray philosophy of the time and Adams was warning against a corrupt system that rewarded financiers at the expense of ordinary people.

There’s little merit in being a champion speller or sentence writer if your book says nothing worth reading, there’s little merit in being a slick debater if you’re talking dangerous tripe, and there’s no merit in radiating facts and figures (think Garret Fitzgerald) if your idea of good economics is to sink a state into ball-breaking debt, yea even unto the third generation, so bankers can collect bonuses and the Irish people are left to pick up the tab for big-time bond gamblers. 

Please, interviewers. Stop asking Gerry Adams if he knows the price of bottled gas and ask him what Sinn Féin can offer to help the Irish people – and do the same with politicians from other parties. Enough of the would-you-look-at-that-he-can’t-spell-onomatopoeia school of criticism. 


  1. I would tend to disagree a little, Dr Collins. Whilst I appreciate that simply being able to spiel off a list of statistics doesn't actually prove anything, I would still expect it from Gerry. Considering that one of the major platforms he is choosing to attack the failed Fianna Fall government on is the economy itself, he should at least be able to hold a conversation about it.

    For my money, it is similar to the dilemma Alan Johnson found himself in in London - clearly more than competent, but couldn't convince anyone of it because he hadn't done his homework for the soundbites.

  2. With respects Jude, (as the bearded wonder patronizingly would say), the Master of the Soundbite, Baron Gerry Adams, is a blustering bore, a proven liar and an embarassment to the party he rules over with an iron fist.
    I contend that he alone stands between Sinn Fein making maximum gains from the economic debacle in the 26 breakthrough and returning a handful of semi competent candidates to Dail Eireann.
    Apart from dispensing subjective history lessons, blaming the Brits for all of Ireland's woes and recounting his non involvement in the IRA, he has absolutely nothing of substance to say.
    The Politicians, Financiers and Bankers share equal responsibility for the country's economic decline, but let's be honest here; Joe Public overspent and avoraciously hoarded cars, houses and luxury goods on cheap money in the feel good years.
    Besides, I could have sworn that I heard Adams and other Republicans and Nationalists, including some noted writers I may add, goad Unionists over the wealth they were missing out on in the roaring Tiger years.
    The Irish people want answers and solutions and not platitudes and soundbites. Gerry's 'let's put it up to them' is hardly an analytical approach to economic recovery.
    Reporters, journalists and even FAILED politicians are biting at the chops to be next in line to get in the interview ring with Adams. Even Enda Kenny who hates interviews wants Gerry participating in the next debate just so he doesn't come last.
    Memo to Sinn Fein, if you want maximum return of candidates in the next elction, for Chrissakes keep Adams away from interviews and off the radio and TV for the next month until the election is over.

  3. Nicely put Jude. You'll see the anoraks of the state lining up to take pot shots at GA while the state sinks dramatically. Why aren't FF hammered for their economic illiteracy after all it was their policies that got us into this mess in the first place!

  4. Thanks for your thoughts, gents (I assume you all are gents - or male at least...My God, is this being recorded??)

    Pete mboy - I agree that it's expected that Adams/Johnston know certain facts; but my point is, does it matter? I think it's perhaps electorally damaging not to know them, but facts are dead things, useless, except employed to achieve something. You know that.

    I\'ve responded by email. You have a point but I think you're overstating it.

    Anon - I agree. I hear today that SF may take a seat in quite a few 5-seat constituencies, and that has galvanised the opposition to fling everything they can at SF. With help from the usual media suspects. Just a thought: there are clearly quite a few journalists, north and south, strongly antagonistic to SF. Are there any journalists, north or south, who are PRO -SF? And if not, is that because none exist or because they don't get a platform?

  5. Touché Dr Collins!

  6. Wilst some in the media can see what is going on they are not prepared to go full out against all those who were responsible for
    the fall of the economy- because it might help Sinn Fein

    They should understand that
    Sinn Fein did not need them in the past and does not need them now or in the future

    Some owners of the media can expect
    more obe's and mbe's next year-
    subject scum expect nothing less

  7. A secret internal poll conducted by Fianna Fail shows why they are really worried.


  8. If Sinn Fein take 11 seats plus the 5 they already hold that gives them 16.

  9. Jude
    Worth remembering that the revisionist narrative with regard to 'that' 2007 debate conveniently ignores the fact that the political party of the purported debate winner (McDowell) was wiped out in the subsequent election.

  10. Latest Poll ; Sinn Fein support down

    Two new opinion polls suggest that Fianna Fáil support has stabilised since the party changed its leader - although it remains in third place, just ahead of Sinn Féin.

    Two new opinion polls suggest that Fianna Fáil support has stabilised since the party changed its leader - although it remains in third place, just ahead of Sinn Féin.

    The polls, for tomorrow's Sunday Business Post and Sunday Independent, indicate that Fine Gael remains on course to lead the next government, and that a coalition with Labour would have a comfortable majority.

    The Red C poll for the Sunday Business Post shows Fianna Fáil at 16% - up two points since the last Red C poll for Paddy Power at the start of the month.

    Fine Gael support is down two to 33%, Labour unchanged at 21%, the Greens down two to 2%, Sinn Féin is down one to 13%, and Independents and Others up three to 15%.

    The Millward Brown Lansdowne poll for the Sunday Independent is almost exactly the same, apart from putting Labour three points higher, and Sinn Féin three points lower.

    That poll also shows that just 20% of voters say Micheal Martin's election as leader would make them more likely to vote for Fianna Fáil.

  11. Jude: Perhaps you should look in the mirror to identify at least one pro Sinn Fein journalist or are you going to split hairs and clim that you are not a journalist.Others sympathetic to Sinn Fein are Brian Feeney and Jim Gibney whose columns adorn your favourite nespaper The IRISH NEWS.

  12. Ha ha ha - thank you, Anon. I love your sense of humour. Despite the fact that my blog address is judecollinsjournalist (the invention of my No 2 Son), I am not a journalist. Journalists write for newspapers; I can no longer find a newspaper that'll print anything I write. You may say that's because I'm a lousy writer, and you could be right; alternatively it could be because the Irish media, north and south (excluding the local Andytown News) are resolutely anti-republican. Brian Feeney is anti-SDLP; that's not the same thing as pro-republican. Jim Gibney is indeed unapologetically republican, so I stand corrected in his case. But that's one voice in an emphatically anti-republican wilderness. (Btw, if you're in touch with any unbiased editors, I'll be happy to become a journalist...)

  13. Excilint post Jude; my taughts exactly - both on the the basic premise and on Sinn Fein. Great stuff!
    By the way the term 'journalist' is like 'model' or 'actress' (the last is how Mandy Rice Davis described herself). It does not actually mean a paid-up member of the NUJ but more a middle-class commentator.

  14. Thanks for sweet words, Feardorcha. Still not sure I'd go along with your definition of a journalist, even though I love (and well remember) the unsurpassable Mandy's wise words...

  15. Whilst I agree in principle that being able to recall certain facts and figures doesn't disqualify someone as competent in a field, I think in Adams case it highlights to the electorate a certain ignorance of the situation that is wholly unacceptable in someone who is, at least technically, a candidate for premiership.

    Gerry Adams has been, with some justification, hailed as a brilliant political campaigner. Unfortunately for him he made the cardinal sin of not being prepared. This led to him sounding like a blow in, a tag which his opponents are going to do their best to make stick. Sinn Fein, in my eyes, are actually offering a real economic alternative to the people of Ireland (though it may not be one I entirely agree with). Whilst Adams ignorance of Child Benefit rates or VAT rates don't have an impact on the validity of SF's economic agenda, they have a massive impact on his chances of implementing it.

    That is the issue at hand and that is why he has been so derided.

  16. I don't dispute the impact of his not knowing, Ed - that's obvious. What I'm emphasising is the illogicality of the media reaction to same.

  17. http://www.u.tv/News/Sunday-Tribune-calls-in-receivers/bde39427-eab6-415a-b9ef-b9d5a6362f5a

  18. I see Tom Elliott has failed in his bid to get the Tory/LibDem Government to change the selection process for First Minister.