Adams: ‘I did my best’

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As he hands over the reins to Mary Lou McDonald, Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams has been giving interviews and facing a welter of last-minute criticism from his political opponents.

He says his legacy is not an issue which he has concerned himself with, because he believes he did the best he could.

“I don’t mind. If I thought about it very deeply those people who detest me will continue to detest me. Those people who admire me will continue to admire me.

“All I did in the course of the job, I was doing my best. And I think that is all we can do. I am satisfied I have done my best,” he said.

Much of the media commentary has been speculation about Mr Adams involvement with the IRA, something he has always denied.

Mr Adams said he first began peace efforts with Catholic priest Father Alec Reid as far back as 1976 and 1977, several years before he became the leader of Sinn Fein.

But it was not until 1988 that Fr Reid mediated Mr Adams’ dialogue with the then SDLP leader John Hume, which led to the IRA ceasefire six years later.

Mr Adams has said he regrets that it took until 1994 for the first IRA ceasefire, but accused others of hiding behind a “subterfuge” of moral denunciations to avoid dialogue.

“I regret the fact anyone was killed, particularly those who were killed by the IRA. Of course I do,” he said. “All victims deserve the truth and justice and their families deserve that.

“People will judge me whatever way they want to judge me and I accept that. I have been very moved by the generosity and grace of some people who were really hurt in the conflict.

“That has been quite inspirational, to meet people who were prepared to set aside that hurt for the common good. What we all have to do is make sure it never happens again.”

He said that when he and Mr Hume eventually met in 1988 they “did what is just the imperative, the primacy of any process (which) is to talk, to listen.”

“And out of that came the Hume/Adams principles,” he added.

Mr Adams criticised past British prime ministers who refused to talk to Sinn Fein during the conflict and called them “the stupid ones.”

“Probably the toughest (prime ministers to deal with) were the stupid ones who wouldn’t talk.

“If you consider that I was an elected official along with others and other elected officials wouldn’t talk to us and the British prime ministers handed over the future ... to generals, to military bosses, to people who brought in collusion, internment, shoot to kill and all the rest of it and just militarised the situation with all the awful consequences of that.”

Mr Adams said that John Major had the chance to help bring peace to the north but failed to do so, while Tony Blair seized the opportunity “with both hands”.

Mr Adams also said the idea of Irish unity has become more prevalent since Britain decided to leave the European Union. Mr Adams said however that he does not believe a united Ireland is inevitable.

“You have to work for it and you have to convince people. But we now have a very peaceful and democratic way of achieving it,” he said.

Mr Adams added: “That means persuading people that the best way for all of us on this island is if we govern ourselves. Why do we want English people to govern us? Why do we want anybody but ourselves to govern us?”

He said that at the “very core” of Irish unity was “uniting orange and green.”

“(It’s) about harmony and peace between those two big traditions. And as we become more multicultural it is also about making space for all of those other folks out there who wouldn’t be part of the orange and green tradition. It is about trying to build a tolerant, respectful, citizens based, rights centred society,” said Mr Adams.

When asked how he would judge himself, Mr Adams replied: “To tell you the truth, I haven’t thought of that.

“I am a very good dancer, I sing extremely well, I am a half-decent cook, I have written a wee bit, I like walking, but I’m comfortable in my own skin and I am surrounded by some wonderful people, a great family, my wife, people who love me.

“The most important thing in life is friendship and the most important thing you can give to anyone is time. So I am blessed with friends and all this time,” he said.

Mr Adams added that he also felt “blessed” to still be alive, having survived a number of assassination attempts.

“I have escaped a number of attempts to kill me and so on. I have been blessed by some very incompetent assassins, so there are lots of good things in life,” he said.

Thousands of Sinn Fein delegates are gathering today at the RDS in Dublin to acclaim of Dublin Central TD Ms McDonald as his successor. Sinn Fein’s northern leader, Michelle O’Neill, will also be elevated to the vice-president position.

Mr Adams is passing on the Sinn Fein presidency after more than 34 years in the post.

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