British feared Christmas tree would give Gerry Adams ‘man of peace’ aura

UK National Archives, 1997: Sinn Féin leaders visited Downing Street at Christmas

A visit by the Sinn Féin leadership to Downing Street at Christmas in 1997 led to concern that pictures of Gerry Adams standing near a Christmas tree would portray him as "a man of peace".

Alastair Campbell, then Downing Street press secretary, flagged the potential problem of symbolism a few weeks before the first meeting between Adams and Tony Blair.

"With Gerry Adams due in on December 11th, we need to think through whether we want him photographed with the No 10 door and a Christmas tree," Campbell wrote in a memo to Jonathan Powell, Downing Street chief-of-staff, and John Holmes, private secretary to Blair.

“Given the attacks we will have to fend off over him coming at all, do we want the added problem of the symbolism of Gerry Adams as a man of peace, bringing glad tidings, and all the other Christmas cliches that will be churned out?”


In the end the concern appears to have gone unheeded as Adams, Martin McGuinness, Martin Ferris and other members of the Sinn Féin delegation were pictured outside Number 10 with a tall Christmas tree at their backs.