Gerry Adams is the pre-eminent republican activist of our times. A former President of Sinn Féin, he served as MP for West Belfast and as a TD in the Dáil over a four-decade period of frontline elected politics.
He is the author of several books including Before the Dawn, The Street and Other Stories and Falls Memories. His latest collection of short stories The Witness Trees will be published in the autumn.
He describes himself as "an optimistic and hopeful activist" and publishes a famed Twitter account.
I HAVE met many loyalists over a very long time. In prison. Out of prison. In secret or in private talks going back to the 1970s. And many times since then. I like to think that some of us became friends. Or at least we became friendly. Some loyalist leaders played a crucial role in the negotiations which led to the Good Friday Agreement. They deserve great credit for that. That was then.
REGULAR readers will know that Ionad Eileen Howell/St Comgall’s was formally opened in June by the US Economic Envoy Joe Kennedy. It came after many years of fundraising, planning and hard work by all involved – not least Eileen Howell, who the centre is named after. The project is designed to promote economic, educational, social and cultural benefits for the people who live and work in the local area and to promote good relations between communities. Ionad Eileen Howell joins Conway Mill and other local projects in this important work.
NEXT Wednesday – November 22 – will mark the tenth anniversary of the death of Father Alec Reid. It is a matter of wonderment that a decade has passed since he left us. Students of the Irish peace process will know that Alec was a central figure in our search for peace. He and Fr Des Wilson were key to the beginning of that process. I won’t deal in this column with all the twists and turns of those times or the stubborn refusal for decades of the establishments, British and Irish, to embrace dialogue. Fr Alec and Des helped to change that. And much more.
SEVEN key Irish-American organisations have announced an ‘Irish Unity Summit – For a New and United Ireland’ to be held in New York on March 1 next year. This major initiative – coming as it will just before St. Patrick’s Day and the visit to the USA of political leaders from Ireland – is being organised by the Ancient Order of Hibernians; the Brehon Law Societies of NYC and Nassau; the Friendly Sons of St. Patrick Long Island; Friends of Sinn Féin; Irish American Unity Conference; the James Connolly Irish American Labor Coalition; and the Ladies' Ancient Order of Hibernians. More details on the format and speakers will be announced by the organisers later.
LAST week I attended an event in Parliament Buildings at Stormont, hosted by US Special Economic Envoy Joe Kennedy. There was a panel discussion on the impact of the Good Friday Agreement which involved myself, former DUP leader Peter Robinson; former Alliance Assembly Speaker Eileen Bell; Lady Daphne Trimble, President of the Ulster Unionist Party; and former SDLP leader Mark Durkan.
AS I write this week’s column all of the scéal coming from the Israeli Government and its international allies indicate that a ground invasion of Gaza is imminent. It will, according to some, be a ‘surgical strike against Hamas’. From British Government Ministers to political pundits, from international allies of the Israeli Government to Israeli spokespersons, the aim – they say - is to destroy Hamas.
LIKE many of you I have been shocked and distressed by the appalling events in the Middle East. The attack by Hamas fighters which targeted civilians cannot be defended. Mary Lou McDonald spoke for all of us when she unreservedly condemned these actions and called for the release of all hostages.
THE scale of the assault by Palestinian fighters into Israel last weekend is unparalleled. The scenes of death and destruction on both sides are heart-breaking. But shock and despair at more violence in that region is not the answer.
ANYBODY who knew David Ervine or knows of him will appreciate the title of Bobby Niblock’s play – The Man Who Swallowed A Dictionary. In its humorous description of David’s style of speaking and wordiness it reminds us of a political leader who was an able and determined advocate for working class loyalism. His sudden death in January 2007 at the age of 53 left a political vacuum within loyalism and wider politics which has never been properly filled. The Progressive Unionist Party which David led has failed to garner the popular political support that it was once thought capable of under his leadership.
EFFORTS by the British government and the unionist parties to stymie the conversation on future constitutional change have actually brought a greater focus on the growing momentum around the upcoming unity referendum. The criticism of An Taoiseach Leo Varadkar by the British Secretary of State and a range of unionist voices for daring to suggest that a united Ireland will happen in his lifetime is the latest example of unionist and Tory efforts to delegitimise the goal of Irish unity.
Up the Shore, by Seamus Heaney
THE Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs Micheál Martin recently visited Israel, the West Bank and Jordan. It was an opportunity for the Irish Government to take a firm stand against Israeli aggression and its apartheid system of governance. Instead Mr Martin became little more than a commentator on the ongoing and worsening crisis in that region.
AS regular readers of this column know I have been involved for a very long time in the campaign to protect and develop as a historic and cultural quarter the Moore Street terrace and its environs in Dublin. The entire terrace at 10 to 25 Moore Street was occupied by the evacuated GPO garrison at the end of Easter Week 1916. The developer – Hammerson – wants to demolish much of the terrace.
IN 1986 I gave a talk at a Sinn Féin conference which became known by activists of my vintage as The Road to Cork or The Bus to Cork (or by Pádraig Ó Maolchraoibhe as An Bóthar go Corcaigh - Ed.). More of that at another time. Suffice for now to say that I made the journey to Cork a metaphor for the journey to the new republic. I am minded of that now as our car speeds south and I sit in the back penning these words.
THIS column will be in Cork, le cuidiu Dia, to attend the National Hunger Strike Commemoration on Sunday. It will be the first time that this annual event has been held in Cork. It will remember the ten 1981 hunger strikers and Michael Gaughan and Frank Stagg who both died in English prisons and those Cork republicans – Terence MacSwiney, Michael Fitzgerald, Joseph Murphy, Denis Barry and Andy O’Sullivan – who also died on hunger strike during the Tan War and the Civil War. The commemoration will also remember those others who died on hunger strike in the intervening years.