The Limits of Philanthropy

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.

  • Transcript


Topic: The Limits of Philanthropy.

Gerry Adams: I'm a great fan of a man called Chuck Feeney.  And if you haven’t interviewed Chuck Feeney, and he might not do an interview with you, but Chuck Feeney was a billionaire who gave away all of his money. 

I’ll give you an example.  I brought him on to see a survival school for the Irish language.  And I was trying to encourage him to give some money to it. 

This was a school where parents had financed by running raffles and, you know, all of that sort of fundraising projects.  And the kids were all in this big hall, and they were getting a brilliant education. 

So he said to me when we went through the whole thing; and I thought he was highly impressed by it; but he says, “I’m not going to give them any money.”  And I said, “Why not?”  And he said, “Well, they’re doing very well without me.  Perhaps if I give them money they wouldn’t do as well.” 

So I would take a leaf from his sort of experience of philanthropy and put it into sustainable projects.


Recorded on: Oct 8, 2007