DUBLIN (AP) — Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams has insulted the main Protestant party in Northern Ireland, reflecting a surge in tensions in their 7-year-old unity government.
Adams made his unusually sharp criticism of the Democratic Unionist Party during a meeting Monday with Sinn Fein activists in the town of Enniskillen. A local journalist tweeted audio of his comments, which clashed with Adams' usual defense of power-sharing, the centerpiece of Northern Ireland's peace accord.
Adams said his Irish Catholic party was cooperating with the Democratic Unionists to "break these bastards. That's the point. And what's going to break them is equality."
Adams told supporters that cooperation with their traditional enemies inside a Northern Ireland government represented a "Trojan horse" strategy for politically outmaneuvering them. Sinn Fein seeks Northern Ireland's eventual merger with the Republic of Ireland, a goal that most Protestants oppose.
His words spread rapidly on social media. Adams, replying on Twitter, said he had intended to criticize Democratic Unionist "bigots, racists or homophobes," not the entire party, and should have avoided the b-word.
The other four parties in Northern Ireland's government accused Adams of revealing that Sinn Fein had no sincere interest in sustained compromise.
"It is rare for Gerry Adams' mask to slip," said Colum Eastwood, a lawmaker from Sinn Fein's moderate rival for Catholic votes, the Social Democratic and Labour Party.
Adams' comments follow the Democratic Unionists' mocking of Gaelic, Ireland's little-used native tongue. Sinn Fein is promoting a legislative bill to grant Gaelic equal status with English, but the government's Democratic Unionist culture minister, Gregory Campbell, has dismissed the idea.
Opening debate on the bill this month, Campbell deliberately mispronounced the Gaelic phrase for "thank you" as "curry my yogurt," inspiring Protestant guffaws and Catholic indignation.
At the Democratic Unionists' conference last week, Campbell brought jars of yogurt and curry to the podium and declared he would treat Sinn Fein's language bill as toilet paper. He received a standing ovation — and, hours later, an anonymous death threat.