Gerry Adams claims Sinn Féin was ‘banned and outlawed’
Outgoing party leader says Belfast Agreement is in ‘disrepair’ but can be fixed
Sinn Fein’s Gerry Adams leaves Stormont for the last time in his role as party leader. Photograph: Clodagh Kilcoyne/Reuters.
Gerry Adams has claimed Sinn Féin were “banned and outlawed” when he joined them in the 1960s.
Mr Adams, who is to pass on the presidency of Sinn Féin to Mary-Lou McDonald after more than 34 years in the post, was interview on RTÉ Six One on Friday evening.
“When I joined Sinn Féin almost 50 years ago around 1965 or thereabouts, Sinn Féin was banned, we were outlawed,” he said.
At the time the IRA was a proscribed organisation, as it remains, but its then fledgling political wing Sinn Féin was not.
Referring to the mid-60s, Mr Adams said: “The people of the North who were nationally-minded were on their knees. We’re now up off our knees, we have a Good Friday Agreement - it’s in a bit of disrepair at the moment and the institutions are down - but we will deal with all of that.”
Mr Adams said when he was “a kid” there was “no peaceful and democratic way even to be Irish never mind to be a united Irelander”. He said there now was a peaceful and democratic way, and he would appeal to everyone “to embrace that and join the journey towards Irish unity”.
Asked if he regretted not being able to achieve a united Ireland during his tenure as party leader, he said “No”, before adding: “Obviously I would prefer if we woke up tomorrow morning with one but a United Ireland has never been inevitable.”
It was something that had to be “worked at”, he said.
“I’m deeply convinced that we as a people need to be united, to govern ourselves and need rid of the Border. I’m also of the view that only a party like Sinn Féin will bring about changes in the public health service and tackle homelessness and housing and deal with rural communities,” he said.
Mr Adams said Brexit and the return of a hard Border would be “disastrous” for Ireland.
“A big backdrop against everything we’re doing on this island, whether in Antrim or in Cork, is Brexit and the problem is the DUP have not embraced the vote of people in the North to stay in the European Union.”
“We have ordered practical workable alternatives which is for a special designated status of the North and if British government are going to drag the North out of the customs union and out of the single market then you will see a new frontier on this island and that is disastrous for every single person that lives on the island,” he said.
Mr Adams said he was confident powersharing in Stormont would resume. “Unite orange and green - find points where we come together, find points where we can accommodate each other and build on that.
“I’m committed to that and the future looks bright. The night is darkest just before the dawn. Despite all these difficulties, we will find a way forward, ” he said.
Signing-off on the interview, Mr Adams complimented the new RTÉ news anchors Keelin Shanley and Caitríona Perry.
“Good luck to you and Caitríona, the newsroom in RTÉ and Sinn Féin will have two things in common - they are both being led by brilliant, efficient women,” he said.
Sinn Féin is expecting some 2,000 delegates to gather at the RDS in Ballsbridge in Dublin on Saturday for the ratification of Ms McDonald, who represents Dublin Central, as the next party president.