A ROLLER-COASTER RIDE: The A'town News interviews Gerry Adams

On Monday morning Gerry Adams still had a photograph of himself and the Armagh football captain, Kieran McGeeney, poking out from the corner of the bookcase in his Falls Road office.

The picture was possible evidence of his allegiance at the previous day’s All-Ireland final – won, of course, by Tyrone. But the rushed, milky coffees and the whispered 'go gasta' were definite evidence that the man was burning the candle at both ends.

He had spent the previous three days in Dublin and arrived home late on Sunday night.
He was now talking to the Andersonstown News early on Monday morning, in between packing his bags and hosting a press conference on breast cancer awareness, before heading off for two long days in London.

One might presume that the purpose of his hurried timetable had something to do with the rescue of the current peace process.
But, in actual fact, it had more to do with recording the history of the peace process – or Mr Adams’ version of it – in his new memoir 'Hope and History.'

"A key part of the book which I want to bring your attention to is about Father Reid and Father Des Wilson," says Adams, deliberate and early in the interview. "We had a situation where this entire community was demonised, was depicted as pariah.

"So, Father Reid, just on the very simple principle that people should be talked to and people should be listened to, developed from there." Describing Father Des as "slightly more impatient about it all," Mr Adams says, "we should take succour from what they did in terms of keeping faith with these broad principles about upholding dignity."

Yet for someone who has witnessed so many setbacks in that strategy and, indeed, the overall peace process, Mr Adams' latest book is a surprisingly optimistic read.
"To be a republican, to be an actual practising republican, you have to be an optimist," he says.

"So in parts of this book I note things that give us a great encouragement and they were world events: the collapse of the USSR, where a whole world order crumbled; the reunification of Germany; the death of Apartheid. But essentially, without being too folksy about it, what gives me my optimism is just ordinary people, the refusal of ordinary nationalists and republicans, the refusal to give up, the refusal to be defeated, without being dogmatic or strident or fanatical," he says.

Although the peace process has developed significantly, Mr Adams still concentrates the conversation on key political issues such as equality, policing, criminal justice and the transfer of power to a new Assembly.
"I think that we should all bear in mind that equality is an issue which is an entitlement--almost a birthright--for citizens in this country. I mean we're Irish people living under a jurisdiction which we don't want, but that equality is hugely difficult for elements of unionism because they see that as to their disadvantage.
"But probably just as importantly, it's hugely difficult for the system, hugely difficult for even the modified system of British rule under the Good Friday Agreement, because to bring about fairness in employment, parity of esteem, equality of opportunity, on every issue--social, economic, political, cultural-- totally and absolutely changes the nature of this state.

"It’s the death of this state, and they know that and that's why they fight so ferociously."
Mr Adams says he is not despondent that the state is fighting back.
"Of course the system is fighting back and will continue to fight back. One of the things I remember saying to Martin McGuinness at the time of the Good Friday Agreement was that it is going to be a battle a day, it's going to be trench warfare. Right across the entire civil service they have to be opened up to people who are republicans and who are nationalist. You can see it in terms of some elements, particularly those under the old NIO regime, who were probably quite satisfied that it's back to direct rule."

Mr Adams has absolute confidence about the logic of Sinn Féin’s current strategy and the overall peace process.

"If there is any common thread in this book it is that nothing else has worked. Mass killings; mass attempts to just make people non-citizens; the huge resources in terms of person-power, money, apparatus; the whole chicanery of the British war machine, undercover as well as the overt stuff that goes on – none of it worked. Refusing to talk to people – none of it worked. But it’s only when we actually got to the point where people proactively listened and talked to each other that there was any progress forward. So I think republicans have some sense of that. This whole community, even the office we’re in – three people were killed down the stairs. Nora McCabe was killed just two streets from here. The IRA killed people just in the other direction.

"So every street corner, every brick, every cobblestone, every kerbstone, there’s some memory of someone who has been killed and for the families of those people they don’t ever pass those without thinking about it.
"You can become bitter, resentful and we’ve seen that with some people. Or you can become magnanimous and generous.
"You can’t be reconciled to a system that is wrong, but you can be reconciled to wanting to change that system for the better," he said.
The Sinn Féin president was candid in admitting that the party has "clearly made some mistakes."
"But if you look back ten years, we've taken people on a helter-skelter, a huge roller-coaster of a struggle which has just turned things upside down and I think that people like that. In their heart, they like the fact that there is now a clear strategy, that we’re not just trying to bring about a national republic but we’re trying to build a political party on the island so that it will be ready when we get to that point."

With that, Mr Adams is dragged away from the interview by his faithful 'batman,' Richard McAuley, who wants him to comment on Radio Foyle about some of the more humorous incidents in the new book--dropping his trousers in a New York television studio… covering Martin McGuinness' blazer in boot polish… peeing in the woods with the UUP’s Dermot Nesbitt…

And if you want to know more, Gerry Adams will be signing copies of his new book ‘Hope and History: Making Peace in Ireland’ at the Art Shop on the Falls Road this Saturday.
•Gerry Adams’ book will be reviewed next Thursday.

Journalist:: Jarlath Kearney

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