Gerry Adams is an authentic republican. The island of Ireland should belong to the people who live there, he believes. Sinn Féin, the political party he has led since 1983, has one Big Idea, Mr. Adams says: A free Ireland, a self-governing and prosperous island nation working for the benefit of all of its people.

This is a struggle that has been going on for 800 years, Mr. Adams points out -- Ireland was England’s first colony and now is its last one. Sinn Féin’s republican ideals, he says, motivate people throughout Ireland -- it’s the only all-Ireland political party, and it cuts across all of Ireland’s social stratas, Mr. Adams reports. It also reflects the aspirations of people all over the world with Irish roots, no matter why or when they left.

Gerry Adams has spent his life working for a united and independent Ireland. Mr. Adams has twice been elected to the British Parliament by the people of West Belfast, whom he continues to serve as an abstaining M.P. Convinced that the information most people get is filtered through London and tabloid journalism, he wrote his 8th non-fiction book, A Farther Shore: Ireland’s Long Road to Peace. Why? To tell the world what “republican” and “nationalist” really mean; to counter careless journalists apparently unaware that the founders of Irish republicanism were Protestants and mistakenly use “Catholic and Protestant” instead of “sectarian,” to tell his story so people can decide for themselves. He’s convinced, he says, that Seamus Heaney’s poetic line is true: “A farther shore is reachable on the far side of revenge.”

It’s easy enough to be against something, Mr. Adams says, especially when that something is British rule in Ireland. The challenge is to actually move from that into being FOR something, he says, to shape what that something is. What sort of Ireland do you want, what sort of rule? How do you get from a culture of resistance to a culture of change? It’s the challenge of being an agent of change, Mr. Adams knows, of being a problem solver. And it’s the challenge that he believes Sinn Féin is meeting. The battle of ideas is what Sinn Féin wants to win through negotiation, campaigning, propaganda, publicity and argument, Mr. Adams summarizes. He repeatedly reminds anyone willing to hear that this approach is quite distinct from physical force republicans who support armed actions.

Answers, he says, come from ordinary people doing extraordinary things, pointing to the crucial role played by hunger strikers who died in the 1980s, led by Bobby Sands. One person really can make a difference, Mr. Adams insists.

Ireland does not yet have democracy, Mr. Adams reminds us -- democratic institutions are suspended, commitments not completed and “securocrats” still have a firm grip. But these acts affect the British government and its people as much as they effects the Irish, he says, because such actions become part and parcel of life there, too.

Gerry Adams says there’s more to life than politics -- grandchildren, walking dogs, tending gardens. But whatever he does, he’s confident that if Sinn Féin continues to be successful in its struggle, for the first time in 800 years, he will do these things in a free Ireland.


[This Program was recorded January 23, 2004, in Atlanta, Georgia, U.S.]



Gerry Adams

    ... Sinn Féin president since 1983. Mr. Adams has served as a member of the British Parliament for West Belfast (from which he abstains) from 1983 to 1992 and 1997 to 2011. He was elected to the Dáil (Irish Parliament) in 2011. A prolific writer as well as life-long political activist, Mr. Adams’ A Farther Shore: Ireland’s Long Road to Peace is his 8th non-fiction book. His fiction, The Street and Other Stories, is also widely praised. Mr. Adams lives in Belfast.

Edited Excerpts of the Conversation:



Conversation 1


Gerry Adams tells us that London shapes international news about Ireland and summarizes the personal account he wrote in response. One person CAN make a difference, he insists.



Conversation 2


Ireland was England’s first and final colony, Mr. Adams points out, confident that Ireland’s colonial experience informs his views on poverty and deprivation, worldwide. Sinn Féin’s republican struggle is about the reconquest of Ireland by the people who live on the island, he says, putting Ireland’s quest for freedom in the context of the fall of the USSR, German reunification and South Africa’s transformation. It’s easy to be against something, Mr. Adams says, describing how he and Sinn Féin worked to be agents of change, articulating what sort of Ireland they wanted. He celebrates the power of ordinary people, like hunger striker Bobby Sands, to do extraordinary things.




Conversation 3


One person’s “securocrat” is another person’s “terrorist,” Mr. Adams says and expands. He describes how the British put the ideas in Low Intensity Operations to work in their conflicts with colonial insurrectionists around the world. The Irish peace process has dramatically loosened the grip of “securocrats,” he says, convinced that human corruptibility requires safeguards. He describes British government acts as victimizing the British as much or more than the Irish. People are not born racists or bigots, Mr. Adams says, then applauds the concept “peace is not just the absence of conflict.” He describes how he deals with life’s unfairness.



Conversation 4


Mr. Adams defines “republican,” “nationalist” and “sectarianism” in the Irish context. He describes how colonialism worked in Ireland, including the creation of the “plantation” system the British eventually took all over the world. The founders of Irish republicanism were Protestants, Mr. Adams recalls, frustrated that journalists mistakenly refer to “Catholics” and “Protestants” -- sectarianism is not about religion, he says. The European Union’s positive effects and their political consequences are enumerated. The partition of Ireland brought about two conservative States on the island, Mr. Adams says, then describes how a strategy about Irish unity came about.




Conversation 5


Mr. Adams gives examples of the impact of “class” in Ireland and in the United States, then describes how Sinn Féin cuts across all social stratas. Sinn Féin’s “Big Idea” is a free Ireland, prosperous and working for the benefit of all of its people, Mr. Adams says. He articulates his firm belief that Ireland has the opportunity to make change through unarmed struggle. It’s impossible to know what separates a “patriot” or “freedom fighter” from a “terrorist,” Mr. Adams says, offering historical examples. He describes the horrors of war which brutalize perpetrators and victims alike, with ordinary people suffering the most.



Conversation 6


"Sinn Féin” literally means “we ourselves,” Mr. Adams says, and broadly means independence from Britain and self-government for the people of Ireland. He considers Ireland’s future and his own, then agrees with Seamus Heaney’s poetic articulation, “A farther shore is reachable on the far side of revenge.”




Related Links:

A Farther Shore: Ireland’s Long Road to Peace is published by Random House. It is Mr. Adams’ 9th book, most of which are still in print.

The Sinn Féin website.

A British view is presented by PBS/Frontline.

When Stephen Biko died in police custody, Barney Pityana replaced him as head of SASO (South African Students' Organization). Under South Africa's apartheid government, Mr. Pityana was called a "terrorist." He is now Vice-Chancellor and Principal of the University of South Africa.

Political scientist Mia Bloom has written Dying to Kill: The Allure of Suicide Terror.

And, here's a little background information on Paula Gordon and Bill Russell, the Program co-hosts.



The fortitude of people who have struggled against colonial rule for 800 years beggars the imagination. We can only applaud the relentless work it has taken to begin to bring peace to Ireland. It is a privilege to have gotten a glimpse inside Ireland from an authentic “republican.” We thank Gerry Adams, M.P., for his perseverance and for pointing out to us that Atlanta is home to two Nobel Peace Prize winners -- Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and President Jimmy Carter. We are glad that the latter occasioned his visit.

Richard McAuley, Mr. Adams’ ever-present press secretary and colleague, impressed us with his openness, flexibility and courtesy. We appreciate having been at the other end of one of his ubiquitous cell phones.



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