Irish Republican News · September 29, 2003
[Irish Republican News]

[Irish Republican News]
IRISH REPUBLICAN NEWS: Hope and History, by Gerry Adams
Hope and History, by Gerry Adams

In his new book, `Hope and History: Making Peace in Ireland', Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams looks back at two decades of peace efforts.

One of the most dramatic episodes was the 1984 shooting in which he was hit by five of the 12 bullets fired by pro-British forces at him and his three colleagues as they travelled past Belfast City Hall in a car.

He writes: ``The car window came in around me. I felt the thumps and thuds as the bullets struck home. The crack of the gunfire came after Everything was in slow motion.''

His antennae, he remembers, had been ``screaming danger, danger''. Now he knew why.

``Jesus, Mary and Joseph, I give you my heart and my soul... I mouthed the prayers we had been, taught in childhood while the car windows and upholstery splintered and exploded around me...''

Mr Adams said the attack came at a time when many around him had been shot or killed.

``You are living in the shadow of violence and death and then whack!'' Mr Adams says he has been ``blessed with bad assassins''.

``When you live on the edge, then things that a lot of other people take as normal, we would see as great blessings.

``Whether it's family, whether it's friendship, whether it's a sunny day. Whether it's the ability of somebody to hit asliotar at full gallop, a dog that's able to run or do whatever anything that makes you feel, `jeepers that was a great thing to see'.''

`SAGART' PRAISED

In the wake of the hunger strikes period, Mr Adams contacted Father Alec Reid, a Catholic priest based in Clonard monastery off the Falls Road.

Fr Reid, who is referred to throughout the book as `the sagart' -- the Irish word for priest -- wrote to the IRA in 1985 to explore a possible ceasefire.

He says the priest concluded that ``a political coalition between the main nationalist parties'' was an alternative which might interest republicans.

The Sinn Féin president says Fr Reid's role was crucial.

``I think that it is very, very important, and I feel this at a personal level, that his role in this is recognised.

``I also believe fully in the notion that one person can make a difference. I think he was dogged, he was led by a sense of faith, not just in God, but also in people.

``I am quite critical of the Catholic hierarchy and the lack of strategy by the Church, all the churches, but particularly the Catholic Church.

``I think Fr Reid and the way that he developed this mission for peace, there's lessons there for organised religion everywhere.''

UNIONIST ALIENATION

Mr Adams writes that while many unionists ``profess Britishness'', he believes this to be more ``an alienation from things Irish''.

``I have just finished reading Brian Faulkner's book, Memoirs of a Statesman. He describes himself as an Irish politician. So, that sort of jumped out at me,'' he says.

``What we have to do is persuade unionists that their future is with the rest of us, instead of this dysfunctional, semi-detached relationship with the British.

``Undoubtedly there are unionists who read the London Times, who like Darjeeling tea, who watch the cricket scores and who are interested every evening to find out whether Twickenham is on or off, and all of this stuff.

``But they are a very, very small minority. And there is very few of them on the Shankill Road, or in working class unionist neighbourhoods, or even in those rolling rural areas.''

He recounts his early contacts with unionist representatives during the negotiations that led to the Good Friday agreement, though the loyalist parties barely feature in his book.

The UUP remained frosty throughout, he says, though chance encounters did occur in the canteen and in the toilets at the Castle buildings talks venue.

Mr Adams says the ``more rounded unionists'' would respond to casual greetings from republicans.

``Other more insecure fellows were downright rude. David Trimble was one of these. Red-faced and belligerent, he would exit stage left if a Shinner hove into view,'' he writes.

As the talks drew to a close, he notes that Mr Trimble ``had not even uttered one word to us'', before adding: ``I tell a lie. He actually had said two words to me. We met in the toilet one day.

``There was no one else there. `We can't keep meeting like this,' I said to him in an effort to break the ice. `Grow up,' he said.''

During the subsequent efforts to implement the agreement, Mr Adams says ``the unionists commenced talking to Sinn Féin, though David Trimble shook my hand only in July this year''.

He adds that recently the relationship between the men ``has improved''. Ulster Unionist Ken Maginnis once accused Mr Adams of ``collecting handshakes like a Comanche collects scalps''.

Mr Adams recounts an attempt to engage Mr Maginnis in conversation, only for the often bullish Co Tyrone man to snap: ``I don't talk to f**king murderers.''

He says the Dungannon man has ``chilled out with us'' now.

At an early stage, Mr Adams met Mr Maginnis (now Lord Maginnis) in a debate on the US show Larry King Live.

In one of the lighter anecdotes, Mr Adams claims that backstage he had dropped his own trousers and stood on a table to get the attention of chattering party colleagues. He broke the zip on his trousers and conducted the programme with the help of a carefully placed newspaper.

© 2003 Irish Republican News