Gerry Adams, 69, has announced his retirement as President of Sinn Fein – Ireland’s only all-island political party – and this historic moment in modern relations between the Republic of Ireland, Northern Ireland and Britain has been generally met with a stony silence by the powers that be.
Gerry Adams doesn’t give a hoot. He’s been on the receiving end of far worse.
Back in 1977 he was released from prison after serving a five-year sentence for the ‘crime’ of attempting to escape from internment: imprisonment without a trial or charges. In less than a year he was re-arrested.
In 1883 he was elected as a Member of Parliament for West Belfast and, in keeping with Sinn Fein’s policy, refused to sit in the Houses of Parliament. The following year he was shot and seriously wounded by a paramilitary group. British intelligence colluded with such groups as part of their war with the IRA.
The voice of Gerry Adams was not allowed to be broadcast and even when he just made statements as President of Sinn Fein his words were read by actors on television and radio.
Adams worked hard to secure a peace deal between the British and the IRA and this eventually lead to the Good Friday Agreement and the end of armed struggle by the IRA. More than any other single individual, with the exception of Martin McGuinness, Adams was responsible for bringing an end to the war.
What did not end was the struggle for a united Ireland and for economic and cultural equality on the island of Ireland. “Never give up” makes a suitable title for a selection of his writings over the long years of a struggle that continue to this day.
The selection naturally covers his political life in Ireland and, while some of the writing is about deadly serious matters, his style of writing is relaxed and considered. There is ‘unfinished business’ to conduct and the Irish Establishment, he says, ‘knows and fears that’.
He makes his position clear: ‘A united Ireland means the unity of the people of this island, including those who see themselves as British.’ His struggle is for equality and a rights-based society.
There are also lighter touches in this book that provide the reader with glimpses of a private individual with a sense of humour. He loves dogs, likes the rain, speaks Gaelic (learning it in prison) and, it would seem, goes to church. He attributes his fondness for rain to his years on the run in Belfast; wearing a hood or a cap provided much needed cover from the British Army patrols on the streets.
Gerry Adams, it turns out, grows trees. He collects seeds and keeps them potted until they are ready to give to friends as gifts or tokens of friendship. During high-powered meetings in Washington and London, he found time to wander into gardens and pocket seeds from trees. Ones from the White House failed to grow but those from Downing Street are, he says, ‘struggling on’. Just like the man himself.
“Never give up”, by Gerry Adams, is published by Mercier Press.