“Cats can swim 2. Im in bath. With rubber duck. Yellow. I 4give u 4 taking keys. Enjoy ur swim. Good luck 2 Loughgiel hurlers 2day.”
It’s the sort of writing that straddles the fine line between brilliance and insanity, its meaning as contradictory and bizarre as the individual who wrote it. It’s the Infinite Jest of Twitter accounts, and the enigmatic author is Gerry Adams, leader of Sinn Fein, one of the largest political parties in Ireland. He’s better known for his former activities however, namely being an alleged key player in the I.R.A., which understandably has tainted his public image; he has received much hate mail and public scrutiny in recent years regarding his suspected involvement in several murders.
And then, well then there’s his Twitter account, which takes everything anyone thought they knew about the man and turns those notions on their head. Instead of imagining the plotting of terrorist acts, we’re treated to tweets of him taking a bath – not just any baths though, “sudsy” ones, accompanied by a plethora of rubber ducks. I’m not kidding about the ducks. Its content is so utterly strange that most initially wrote it off as a hilarious fake account — that is of course, until Gerry quite proudly declared it to be 100% real.
‘I do like David Attenborough’ he whispered from the undergrowth. ‘So do I’ said Lonesome George.
— Gerry Adams (@GerryAdamsSF) February 23, 2014
In the era of the tightly-controlled political image, Gerry Adams offers a breath of fresh, decidedly unfiltered air. Instead of a highly orchestrated series of market-tested branding campaigns ran by a dedicated social media team, Mr. Adams personally tweets out whatever he wants to talk about, be it his recurring dream about Cadbury creme eggs or lamenting the struggles of being a teenager in love. It’s a fascinating, if severely disjointed running commentary on the man’s life, one that needs much analyzing to even begin to comprehend its meaning. The majority of tweets are at least somewhat cryptic, and taking stabs at deciphering them has become something of a national sport In Ireland. His Twitter has developed a cult following over the past three years, garnering at the time of writing a whopping 92,000 followers – over twice the following of the Irish prime minister.
My bestest pressie! The Queen of all rubber ducks. A high class act. Kinda ducky ar lá dee dah! Epsom Salts go deo! pic.twitter.com/dmMltTxTL
When it comes to Twitter subject material, anything is fair game for Mr. Adams. There are a number of recurring themes, namely his vast collection of rubber duckies. Yes, really. A teddy bear named Ted features prominently, who allegedly baked the Northern Ireland prime minister a cake. A person simply referred to as “rg” is also a frequent star; most @GerryAdamsSF scholars agree that he is probably some sort of personal aide for the Twitter celebrity, who famously took Mr. Adams’ keys once by accident. If he’s not having an epsom salt bath or snapping pictures of his “dindins”, he’s sharing anecdotes from his job as the elected representative for Louth and party leader of Sinn Fein. Most of these tweets focus on visits to his constituents, cheering on various Hurling teams and stories from the Irish Parliament — such as the time he mistook a toothbrush for a pen, and brought it onto the House floor.
The hunger is on me now. A BIG salad day methinks. With fresh melon 4 afters. Or B4s! Just a thought!
— Gerry Adams (@GerryAdamsSF) July 22, 2013
Perhaps even more remarkable than the absurdity of his tweets is the incredible rehabilitation they’ve had on his reputation. It’s difficult to dislike an elected representative who tweets about how cozy he is in his onesie, let alone picture him orchestrating IRA executions. The truth is, behind the crazy jumble of teddy bears, numerous baths and rubber duckies, there is a very coherent, likable personality. Some in the press have deemed his tweets to be a sophisticated publicity stunt (and if it is, it’s a damn good one). Mr. Adams has decried such accusations, asserting that the account is just “a bit of craic” — and for what it’s worth, I believe him. There’s too much personality and wit for it to be some sort of calculated marketing maneuver.
Call it mad, call it brilliant, call it a stunt, call it whatever you like — but you can’t call it boring. His twitter activity has certainly behooved the man; he is talked about quite fondly amongst younger Irish generations, akin to a crazy uncle, which is in stark contrast to just a few years prior. Sinn Fein (his party) has risen in spite of improbable odds to become the second largest party in the polls, and if the numbers keep going the way they have been in recent time, this rubber duck fanatic has a decent shot at becoming the next Irish prime minister — which many find to be a disquieting (although admittedly hilarious) prospect.
It probably won’t happen, but with Gerry Adams, you never quite know what to expect.