Gerry Adams' tweets: Ducks, teddy bears and a dog called Snowie

Twitter pic of teddy bear Gerry Adams has a large collection of teddy bears
Twitter pic of picnic Gerry Adams going on a teddy bears' picnic with the "little people in his life"
Twitter pic of ducks Mr Adams also collects toy ducks

He loves teddy bears, collects ducks and has a dog called Snowie. And he loves to discuss them on Twitter, the internet site that allows anyone to send out messages in seconds.

So what are we to make of the Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams and his tweets?

"I would describe the Gerry Adams persona on Twitter as somewhere between quirky and barking," says David Farrell, professor of politics at University College Dublin.

Prof Farrell said he has yet to decide where on the scale Mr Adams' persona actually is. But he does like the Twitter account. "I find it quite an attractive thing to see, I have to admit."

Perhaps that is the point - creating a softer image and broader appeal for the leader from Belfast whose IRA past is problematic for some voters in the Republic of Ireland.

Start Quote

It's just a bit of craic. I am sometimes bemused by the acres of newsprint that are written about it and everything is seen as some kind of clever strategy”

End Quote Gerry Adams Sinn Féin president

Labour TD Gerald (Ged) Nash certainly thinks Mr Adams is trying to create a different persona - while escaping from the realities of life as a TD. He suggests Mr Adams is trying to come across as "cute and whimsical".

"I don't think in that regard he is necessarily succeeding," says Mr Nash. "I think people just see it as quite bizarre to be frank."

Mr Nash said most politicians use Twitter for more serious issues and if the Taoiseach (Irish prime minister) or other politicians issued similar tweets, questions would be asked.

For a year now Mr Adams' messages on Twitter have attracted quite a bit of comment.

'Din-dins'

His duck collection images come with jokes such as "ducky ar lá", or the high-class queen duck who says "ducky ar lá deh da."

He recently tweeted: "Cuppa camomile, PJs, some broken biscuits. Tom&Ted on my knees. All waiting 4 Paisley: Genesis To Revelation." He does have colleagues by these names but presumably he means his teddy bears.

He tweeted a picture of himself going on a teddy bears' picnic with the "little people in his life" - another common theme. Food is a favourite too, or din-dins as he likes to call it.

Animals are another favourite, particularly his dog Snowie who he once joked was in disguise as a sheep (there was a picture of a sheep).

In fact Snowie the dog has his own account, but a Sinn Féin spokesman said this was not the actual Snowie.

The imposter, however, did once send out a direct message to the First Minister Peter Robinson with the words, "ruff ruff, grrr".

Mr Adams can deliver a message and that has helped him remain at the top of Sinn Féin for more than three decades. "I do my best to be a messenger," Mr Adams told the BBC.

'Thought police'

He also loves to tweet song lyrics and said what he likes is the immediacy of the reaction and Twitter conversations that begin such as the time he tweeted about Raglan Road and Luke Kelly.

Mr Adams has for years spoken to a tightly controlled message and relationship with the media. "It's outside editorial control," he laughs. "And outside the Sinn Féin thought police."

He does get some abuse but seems unfazed.

He is surprised, he says, by how much media analysis has gone into his account. "It's just a bit of craic. I am sometimes bemused by the acres of newsprint that are written about it and everything is seen as some kind of clever strategy."

Mr Nash counters that some IRA victims may not see the funny side.

Sinn Féin, Mr Adams says, contributes the messages carrying speeches and press releases, but the rest are his own, including the teddy bears. "I do love teddy bears," he said. "I have a large collection of teddy bears."

He certainly has a large collection of followers - more than 40,000 at last count, and he wished them all a Happy Valentine's Day.

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