Gerard (Gerry) Adams is the president of Sinn Fein, the largest nationalist, Republican or pro-Belfast Agreement political party in Northern Ireland. He has been member of Parliament for Belfast West since 1997 and a member of the Northern Ireland Assembly for Belfast West since 1998. He is the Sinn Fein parliamentary leader in Dail Eireann, Ireland's House of Representatives.
From the late 1980s, Adams has been an important figure in the Northern Ireland Peace Process. Under Adams, Sinn Fein has moved toward being a professionally organized political party. He played a pivotal role in getting the IRA to give up its armed campaign against the UK in return for devolved government for Northern Ireland.
Adams was born in 1948 in West Belfast, Ireland, one of ten children who survived infancy in a nationalist Catholic family. He became involved in the Irish republian movement while working as a bartender, joining Sinn Fein and Fianna Eireann, the Irish Republican youth movement, in 1964. He was an active supporter of the Northern Ireland civil rights campaign in the late 1960s, and in 1967 he joined the Northern Ireland Civil Rights Association. After helping to navigate his party through violence and hunger strikes, Adams was eventually elected president in 1983, the first Sinn Fein MP to be elected to the British House of Commons since the 1950s, although in keeping with his party's policy, he has refused to sit in the House.
In 2007, less than two weeks after Adams was re-elected to the Northern Ireland Assembly, he came to an agreement with Democratic Unionist Party leader Ian Paisley regarding the return of the power-sharing executive in Northern Ireland. Adams remains a vigorous spokesman for the Irish Republican Movement.
Question: Can peace be brokered in Iraq?
Gerry Adams: You see these are all matters of political will. Wars don’t happen by accident any more than poverty happens by accident. They’re all curable. They’re all preventable.
There are big interests being served by these conflicts. So it means standing up to the big interests. That means mobilizing, in many ways, public opinion. It means media playing a crucially important role of highlighting, and informing, and educating people in as objective a way as possible.
But yes, there can be, in any given situation, there can be a just and a proper settlement, which means compromise, which means putting yourself in your opponent's position. And you if you want proof of that, the proof does lie in Ireland to a certain extent. Here we have the impeasement and Mark McGinnis – co-managing equal partners in a power-sharing arrangement.
We used to have the USSR, we used to have a Cold War. There aren’t any certainties once shifts appear.
One of the things I learned, and I believe with great conviction, is that people respond to the political conditions in which they live. So if you want to change how people respond or think, change their conditions. Don’t try to attack their core values.
You can obviously have your own view of it and you can argue the case. But fundamentalism from whatever position is essentially wrong if it’s in some way used to inflict repression or injustice upon other people. So if you want to change how human beings respond, then change the political conditions in which they live.
Recorded on: Oct 8, 2007