The Vietnam Generation

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


Question: What was your hope for Northern Ireland?

Gerry Adams: So I think I was very naive. You have to think back to the '60s. The '60s were anti-Vietnam War protest which I attended; anti-apartheid movement, which I was a member of; the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan; the Irish cultural revival of Irish music; all of the sort of great resurgence of Irish culture. It was student riots in Europe. It was "if you go into San Francisco, wear flowers in your hair." It was all of that. It was Rudy Guthrie and so on.

So we thought we could sort it. There were these pitiably unjust things happening, so maybe nobody knew. And if we could just tell them what was happening they would sort it out. It was only when we released it in fact that they did know, and that in fact they had created the conditions.


Recorded on: Oct 8, 2007