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: What did you think you would be doing professionally when you were growing up?
Gerry Adams: For a very brief period I thought about becoming a priest or a Christian brother, which maybe in those days young Catholic women would have thought of becoming nuns. But in my case thankfully it was only a passing notion.
Question: Does religion inform your worldview?
Gerry Adams: I’ve been trying to find the time to figure all of that out so I can give a considerate answer to a question like that.
I was reared as a Catholic and I’m a Catholic and I attend and get comfort from the mass and other Catholic sermons. But, increasingly, I find myself dealing more with spirituality, reading more about Buddhism, trying to read a wee bit about Islam. Certainly in terms of the Christian churches, I’m increasingly bewildered by all the mostly manmade – and I use that term incessantly – the denominational differences and how they all bicker with each other. I think that’s all totally against any sense of what Christ was about.
So without being too judgmental about it all, as I say I believe increasingly in people. I think there is a spirituality. Ireland is a very spiritual place for me, and it’s a very sspiritual place.
Before they civilized us, we used to believe in trees, and the elements, and the _______. And I still believe in a lot of those things. And I believe in nature as a great elemental force.
Recorded on: Oct 8, 2007