GERRY Adams is bloodied but unbowed.
The Sinn Fein leader has raised the stakes by claiming that not only will his recent arrest fail to hurt the party, it has actually “galvanised” their local and European election campaigns.
While nobody can deny the man’s arrogance, this is an extremely risky move - because it leaves him fresh out of excuses if the Shinners’ results after May 23 fail to match expectations.
Ever since Adams was released from police custody nine days ago, Sinn Fein has been in damage limitation mode. The party’s legendary spin machine went into overdrive, portraying him as the victim of “dark forces” whose only motive was to destroy the peace process.
A new mural has been painted on the Falls Road in Belfast, depicting a saintly-looking Gerry beside the words: Peacemaker, leader, visionary.’
Needless to say, Adams still denies any involvement in the horrific abduction and murder of Jean McConville in 1972. Unfortunately, the mask slipped at a recent campaign rally in Cork where he described the mother-of-ten’s death as an “execution”. That is not a word any regular person would use - it is the terminology of someone who believes the IRA was a legitimate army and had the right to shoot anyone it wanted.
Clearly, anyone who hoped that Adams’s detention would soften his cough has been left sorely disappointed. After an incredible 31 years in charge of Sinn Fein, he sounds more than ever like a man with a Messiah complex. He is also a mildly eccentric character who likes to hug trees and often tweets about his favourite teddy bear and rubber ducks.
Whether or not Adams’s arrest will hurt the Sinn Fein vote is still anybody’s guess.
Before Gerry had his collar felt, the party was scoring an impressive 20pc in opinion polls and on course for its greatest victory since the 1918 general election.
Logically, the episode should cost them some floating votes - but equally it may give their more traditional supporters a bit of extra motivation to come out on the day.
In the European contests, all three Sinn Fein candidates seem to have a great chance of winning. However, they will need transfers and the party’s love us or hate us’ image makes them notoriously bad at picking up second preference votes.
In fact, all of these elections are much harder to predict than they were just a fortnight ago - for the simple reason that all four leading Dail parties have suffered an embarrassment or scandal during that time.
Labour were left red-faced when their Euro candidate Phil Prendergast urged Eamon Gilmore to hand over to Joan Burton. Fianna Fail have their own leadership woes, thanks to Micheal Martin’s dithering over the Mary Hanafin fiasco in Blackrock.
Fine Gael are struggling to cope with the fallout from Alan Shatter’s resignation, with transport minister Leo Varadkar admitting that the Department of Justice is not fit for purpose.
As the government struggles to shake off a serious case of the mid-term blues, Sinn Fein still believe they are well placed to be the big winners from May 23.
However, at least one prediction is safe enough. If the Shinners fluff this big chance, they will surely realise that their leader can never overcome his IRA past - and it will be a case of Hello Mary Lou McDonald, Goodbye Gerry’.
Gerry Adams seems to believe that having come this far, nothing and nobody can stop Sinn Fein.
On Friday week it will up to the voters to prove him right or wrong.