Northern Irish Republican politician, leader (president) of Sinn Fein from 1983, member of Parliament for Belfast West 1983–92 and since 1997. He has been a key figure in Irish peace negotiations, persuading the IRA to give up its armed campaign against the UK in return for devolved government in Northern Ireland. In 1994 he was the main architect of the IRA ceasefire and in 1997 he entered into multiparty talks with the British government which resulted in the Good Friday Agreement in 1998. He subsequently became a member of the Northern Ireland Assembly created by the Northern Ireland peace process.
Adams was interned 1972 and 1973–77 on suspicion of involvement in terrorist activity. In 1993 it was revealed that he had held talks about a possible political solution with the leader of the Social Democratic and Labour Party, John Hume, and with representatives of the British government. In August 1994, when Adams announced an IRA ceasefire, the British government removed all restrictions on his public appearances and freedom to travel to mainland Britain (in force since 1988). The unwillingness of the IRA to decommission its arms prior to full British troop withdrawal from Northern Ireland led to a delay in the start of all-party peace talks in 1995, and the resumption of IRA violence in February 1996 was a setback. Nevertheless, in September 1998, he met the Ulster Unionist leader, David Trimble, at Stormont, Belfast, in an historic meeting, the first of its kind for several generations.
Born in Belfast, Adams became involved with Northern Ireland politics from an early age; his father was an IRA activist who was sentenced to eight years' imprisonment for attempted murder. He joined Sinn Fein in 1964 and supported the civil rights campaign which, after riots in Belfast in 1969, led to British troops being sent to Northen Ireland. He played a policy-making role in the 1981 hunger strike by imprisoned republican nationalists, and in 1983 became president of Sinn Fein.
From 1994 he travelled widely, particularly to the USA, to promote the cause of Sinn Fein and all-Ireland integration. The best known face of the Irish republican movement, for many years his voice was not allowed to be broadcast in the UK because of his alleged links to the IRA. Though an MP, Adams declined to take up his seat in the House of Commons because he refused to swear an oath of allegiance to the British queen.
He writes extensively on Irish republicanism, and his experiences have been described in an autobiography Cage Eleven (1990), a biography Gerry Adams: Before the Dawn (1996), and an insider story on the peace process Hope and History (2003).
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