People and radical ideas center of Adams thought

Posted By: November 22, 2017

Jim Gibney.Irish News. Belfast. Wednesday, November 22, 3017

As he spoke the last few sentences of his last speech as president of Sinn Féin, (I can hardly believe I have just written those words) Gerry Adams looked down from the podium, where at ard fheiseana he has stood for 34 years, towards his wife Colette and family and spoke about their love for each other, the importance of their family and how their love prevailed through the decades of political upheaval. How she made it possible for Gerry to be the remarkable leader he is.

In the 40 years I have known Gerry, and listening to his speeches and reading his writings, he has always placed people and alternative radical ideas at the center of his thoughts and approach to political struggle.

He is a great believer in people – in the ability of a single individual to bring about change, whatever that change is.

A powerful individual, he invested his power and influence in others to validate them and to encourage them to believe in themselves and to believe they can change their world.

He can be single-minded and intensely focused but intellectually understands when and when not to compromise.

The title of his last book launched a few weeks ago, Never Give Up is a metaphor for his life.

A few seats away from Colette sat Bernie McGuinness and her family as Gerry Adams paid tribute to Martin – another republican Colossus.

It was a loving relationship between Martin and Bernie and their family that made Martin the outstanding leader he was.

Both Gerry and Martin knew the importance of a loving and stable family life.

And as we can see, from the leadership of Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness, with those circumstances, all things are possible.

Gerry Adams is a warm, sensitive, thoughtful and approachable person. He is brave and fearless. He has a zany sense of humor and enjoys a laugh. He is a listener as much as a talker.

He is an enabler and encourages people to speak their mind, to be ambitious for the greater good.

The mood of the ard fheis was one of heightened emotion, with the death of Martin just nine months ago and the anticipated speech from Gerry announcing he was stepping down.

Change is always difficult and on this occasion made more so because in less than a year the two charismatic and irrepressible figureheads that led the republican struggle, on many fronts, are no longer at the helm.

Few Republicans I spoke with wanted Gerry to stand aside. They wanted him to lead forever.

He is more popular today than when he was first elected president in 1983 and his popularity beyond republican ranks is clearly demonstrated in the growth of Sinn Féin.

Political parties need to lead the times and change with the times. And so with Sinn Féin.

New leaders bring energy, enthusiasm, and optimism, which Gerry Adams has in abundance, but he and Colette and their family are entitled to a life without the pressure that being leader of Sinn Féin brought.

There really is no ‘good’ time to step aside but, in reality, there is no ‘better’ time to do so than now.

Sinn Féin is the strongest it has been since before partition due to Gerry Adams.

Half-a-million people vote for the party across the island.

Ending partition is at the top of the political agenda – Sinn Féin simultaneously in government in the south and the north is not a dream.

The public face of its new leadership team – Mary Lou McDonald and Michelle O’Neill comprise two impressive, motivational, articulate and highly capable people leading the way to a new united Ireland. They have a firm grip on the baton of freedom handed to them by Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness. And that is a tribute to them as well as Gerry and Martin.

Gerry Adams is a unique and special person – a national and international statesman.

He did the impossible. He brought peace to Ireland and ended the conflict and its human cost on all sides. He changed Ireland’s political culture forever.

He gave people hope and a voice which I am sure we will continue to hear for many, many years to come.