September 1, 1997

Profile of Gerry Adams

President of Sinn Fein

The oldest of ten children, Gerry Adams was born on October 6, 1948 in the working class area of West Belfast where he continues to reside with his wife and son.

Upon finishing school in the 1960's, Gerry supported himself as a bartender while becoming increasingly involved in the civil rights movement. Modeled on the civil rights movement in the United States the Irish effort was founded to fight discrimination against northern Catholics by the British government in the areas of housing, employment, education and language.

Internment without trial was introduced in 1971 in response to the growing civil rights movement and community unrest over continued human rights abuses further provoking popular street resistance and campaigns of civil disobedience. The brutal reaction of the Unionist government in the six counties resulted in the ultimate breach of civil rights - murder by the government - of peaceful protesters at what has become known as Bloody Sunday.

For his activities in the ongoing effort to secure equality of treatment for all Irish men and women Gerry was interned in 1972 on the Maidstone, a British prison ship known for its inhumane conditions of overcrowding and brutality. Following this initial internment Gerry participated in peace talks with the British that resulted in a truce which was broken shortly afterwards by the British.

He was again arrested and held without trial from 1973 to 1977.

Over the years Gerry's family has also been targeted by unionist forces. His brother-in-law was killed by the British Army; his brother was shot by the British; several family members have been imprisoned, and his wife and son narrowly escaped injury when a loyalist bomb attack was carried out at their home. To the present day Gerry's health continues to be adversely affected by the years of punishment inflicted during his internment and from his closest call with death, when his body was riddled by automatic rifle-fire in a loyalist death squad attack in downtown Belfast.

Elected as President of Sinn Fein in 1983, Gerry was also elected as a Minister of Parliament from West Belfast during the same year. Refusing to take his seat in Westminster because of the compulsory oath of allegiance to the British Queen, Gerry continued to campaign for the rights of Irish nationalists.

Gerry Adams is widely acclaimed for his crucial role in laying the groundwork for the peace process in Ireland and for his continuing efforts in the building of a stable, democratically negotiated peace settlement.

In September 1993, Gerry Adams along with John Hume, leader of the Socialist Democratic Labour Party, played a pivotal role in reviving the Irish Peace Initiative. This cooperative enterprise lead to major political developments in the peace process including the Downing Street Declaration and the Joint Framework Document, both of which were in direct response to the Irish Peace Initiative.

The strategy adopted by Sinn Fein leadership, headed by Gerry Adams, played a significant part in the Irish Republican Army's courageous announcement on 31 August 1994 of ``a complete cessation of military operations.'' The IRA initiative enhanced the peace process begun by Adams and Hume and was followed six weeks later by a similar announcement on the part of loyalist paramilitary organizations. The work of Mr Adams was crucial in restoring the peace process this year after its collapse in February 1996 following eighteen months of British bad faith and unionist intransigence.

Centrally involved in the establishment of Sinn Fein's dialogue with the Dublin government and with most of the Irish political parties, Gerry was a member of the Sinn Fein delegation to the Forum for Peace and Reconciliation.

Sinn Fein continues to achieve groundbreaking advances on both sides of the Atlantic in its quest for a just and lasting peace in Ireland. Despite efforts at marginalization, demonization, censorship and isolation significant inroads to peace continue to be made by Gerry Adams and Sinn Fein. The Clinton Administrat has been a positive and visionary contribution to the search for peace in Ireland. Gerry's trips to the United States thus far has swept Sinn Fein into an historic phase of meaningful dialogue with the U.S. government while allowing the American public, long suffering at the hands of the British propaganda machine, an opportunity to assess Sinn Fein's analysis and strategy for peace.

Highlights of Gerry's previous trips to the United States include a telephone call from Vice President Al Gore; meetings with some of the most senior Democratic and Republican political figures in Washington; meetings with leaders of the Irish American, legal, business, African-American and Hispanic communities, discussions on relevant issues with the Jewish Lobby and interviews with the editorial staffs of some of the most influential newspapers in the country. Gerry was warmly received at UC Berkeley and the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University and a personal highlight was his meeting with Mrs. Rosa Parks, whom he has long admired and identified with because of their shared background in the civil rights movement of the 1960's.

A member of PEN, the international guild of writers Gerry Adams has published several books including; A Pathway to Peace, The Politics of Irish Freedom and Selected Writings, which provide expositions of his political thinking; Falls Memories, an autobiographical memoir; Cage Eleven, stories relating to prison experiences, The Street and Other Stories, a collection of short stories and Before the Dawn, an autobiography . He is also the author of countless articles and book reviews and a featured columnist on Irish politics for The Irish Voice. An enthusiastic Gaelic sports supporter Gerry Adams is also a fluent speaker of Irish and continues to support cultural growth and appreciation in Ireland.

Gerry Adams regained his seat as Sinn Fein MP for West Belfast in the recent Westminster elections.

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