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Statement on the retirement of Gerry Adams

10 February 2018

Statement by Brendan Howlin TD
Party Leader and Spokesperson on Foreign Affairs and Northern Ireland

Speaking on the retirement of Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams, Leader of the Labour Party Brendan Howlin has said we must never forgot the atrocities that the Provisional IRA perpetrated and that Sinn Féin stood over, but that as a late convert to peace Adams has left a legacy that will be debated for decades.

Deputy Howlin said:

"On the retirement of Gerry Adams, I want to offer my congratulations to Mary Lou McDonald on her election as the incoming Uachtaráin Sinn Féin.

"While there are parts of his record that I can never agree with, nor reconcile with a politics supposedly based on human rights, justice and socialism, it cannot be denied that over thirty five years, Gerry Adams was a seminal figure in Irish politics whose legacy will be debated for generations to come.

"Nobody can doubt that Adams himself is an influential political thinker and strategist. I hope now that retirement affords Adams the time to reflect on his record and political time.

"It must be recognised that Adams led Sinn Féin and the Provisional IRA away from the path of violence towards democratic politics, but for my generation he will always be associated with the Troubles.

"We are entitled to hold him to account for the horrific campaign of violence that contributed to the loss of 3,000 lives over a thirty year period.

"For me the brave people of that period are those that stayed true to the non violent path, and part of their legacy is to have persuaded Gerry Adams to follow them. I speak of course of John Hume, Seamus Mallon and others.

"While a violent campaign may have been thought to be an inevitable response to the Northern state's reaction to the NICRA campaign on civil rights, the promulgation of a long war, based on a false premise that the Britishness could be forced out of Unionism, is nothing short of tragedy. If you want a reminder, if you don't want to forget, can I suggest you follow the 'on this day pira' twitter account.

"I do not say that responsibility for this war lies exclusively in the hands of Gerry Adams. As a nation we all bear some responsibility.

"But it has a legacy, lived in the lives of those who lost family and friends. A legacy in a Northern Ireland which remains politically polarised in a way we hoped it would not be in the heady days of 1998. A legacy still, in how members of Sinn Féin, for example, treat each other.

"It falls now to Mary Lou McDonald to complete the Sinn Féin journey to democratic politics. The challenge she faces will be the speed with which she departs from the Adams legacy, by breaking free from the remnants of the Provisional IRA that many still believe control the party.

"And whether she can strike a different chord that breaks down the barriers in Northern Ireland and ensure the Executive is restored in this critical moment for our island as the UK exits the EU."