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 should be the big issues of the 2008 US presidential election?
Gerry Adams: I always stay away from that.
I live in a place which has been cursed with interference by others. We in the party that I represent keep to a very, very, very rigidly neutral lane. Whatever people here decide in terms of who your president is, or your Congress members are, what your government is, is a matter entirely for people who live here.
From an Irish perspective, of course, we’re entitled to say we want Ireland to be a part of that. And given that 46 million or so people here have their roots in Ireland, we think that should be an issue. And it’s a immoral that Ireland is partitioned. It’s an illegitimate incursion into our affairs. It can be straightened out. And I’m quite sure that if a future [US] administration decided it was in its strategic interests to encourage the British government to create conditions for Irish unity, that that would happen. So without getting involved in any of the other issues, I certainly would argue that that should be a matter. And incidentally, it is the most successful foreign policy position at this time.
The Irish peace process in many ways helped in its infancy by President [Bill] Clinton. It continues to be helped by the [George W.] Bush administration. It’s a success and has worked. And it would not have worked except for Irish America and for the people who live here in the US.
Recorded on: Oct 8, 2007