Northern Ireland

Gerry Adams apologises for using 'offensive' language

Gerry Adams at Enniskillen event Image copyright John McVitty
Image caption Gerry Adams made the comments at a public meeting in Enniskillen

Gerry Adams has apologised for using an "offensive" term at a public meeting, but said he was referring to "bigots", and not all unionists.

The Sinn Féin leader used the phrase "break these bastards" in answering a question at the County Fermanagh event.

He told the BBC's Talkback programme he was "sorry for using the b word" and acknowledged it would cause offence.

He also said he partly regretted using a "Trojan horse" analogy when referring to Sinn Féin's equality strategy.

Mr Adams accepted a suggestion that he had made a "political gaffe" and added "we all make mistakes".

However, the DUP has said that a full transcript of the exchange published by the Impartial Reporter newspaper showed that Mr Adams was referring to the DUP when he used the offending phrase.

The party's Arlene Foster said: "I'm glad the Impartial Reporter has a recording of Gerry Adams' mask slipping moment.

"If it hadn't, Gerry Adams probably wouldn't even remember being in Enniskillen on Monday evening as Sinn Féin's revisionism strategy has been in overdrive.

"Adams' words were not about breaking attitudes, but rather about breaking people. He was responding to a question about the DUP."

'Alternative to war'

Mr Adams confirmed that he was correctly quoted as telling the public meeting: "I think the [Northern Ireland] assembly could collapse. I don't think unionists have a game plan. The assembly for many is an alternative to war."

The meeting took place in Enniskillen on Monday night and audio of Mr Adams' comments, containing the swear word, was tweeted by Impartial Reporter journalist Rodney Edwards.

Speaking on Talkback on Tuesday, Mr Adams said: "I'm sorry for using the b word, and I don't mean bigot, I mean the other word. That was inappropriate and people would be offended by it.

'Wrong term'

"The full transcript of my remarks will show very, very clearly that I wasn't talking about unionists, I was talking about bigots," he added.

"I was responding to a question, which was about what's the point in republicans trying to do business when there's a cadre or a cohort who clearly are against the type of changes that are contained in the various agreements that the political parties have signed up for."

Mr Adams told the programme he had "used the wrong term" during the "cut and thrust" of a question and answer session.

However, he said he stood over "the main thrust" of what he said during the meeting because bigotry had to be "faced down" and challenged "in a smarter way than I did it last night".

'Educated bigot'

Mr Adams was asked repeatedly who he had in mind when he referred to bigots.

The Sinn Féin leader replied: "I'm using the broad brush to describe that cohort who on the one hand, are out-and-out bigots, and there's nothing worse than an educated bigot."

He told the programme he did not believe unionists had "a game plan to collapse the assembly", but added "the negative axis within unionism was dictating the pace".

Unionists have criticised the language Mr Adams used at the meeting, and both the Democratic Unionist Party and the Ulster Unionists have made it clear they believe he was insulting all unionists.

Image caption The use of language has caused political tensions in recent weeks, after Gregory Campbell made reference to Irish speakers in his 'curry my yoghurt' comments

Mr Adams was apparently answering a question about Sinn Féin's relationship with the DUP in the light of Gregory Campbell's disparaging comments about the Irish language.

'Trojan horse'

During the meeting, Mr Adams said he was often asked by republicans "what's the point?"

"They weren't blaming Sinn Féin - in fact they were making the point that Sinn Féin were doing their best," he said.

"But what's the point? The point is to actually break these bastards - that's the point. And what's going to break them is equality. That's what's going to break them - equality.

"Who could be afraid of equality? Who could be afraid of treating somebody the way you want to be treated?

"That's what we need to keep the focus on - that's the Trojan horse of the entire republican strategy is to reach out to people on the basis of equality."

'Shocking revelation'

Ulster Unionist leader Mike Nesbitt described it as "shocking to the point of nausea".

"The most shocking revelation is that he considers equality as a 'Trojan horse'," he said.

"The audio recording makes clear Gerry Adams thinks equality is nothing more than a tool to be used to manipulate people like me."

Alliance leader David Ford said he was "appalled and disgusted" at Mr Adams' comments.

"He has actually damaged equality legislation with his remarks."

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