Presidential Oral Histories

Gerry Adams Oral History

About this Interview

Job Title(s)
President, Sinn Féin Party

Adams begins the interview about working with publisher Niall O’Dowd, Father Alec Reid, Ciaran Staunton, and Ambassador Jean Kennedy Smith that helped connect him with the Bill Clinton administration. Adams discusses getting visas for Joe Cahill, Pat Treanor, and himself to come to the U.S. He reflects on his trips to America, Clinton’s political abilities, and meeting the president and First Lady Hillary Clinton for the first time. The group ends the interview by talking about negotiations leading to the Good Friday Agreement

Richard McAuley, Sinn Féin Party Member

Participants:

Russell Riley, University of Virginia, Interview Team Chair

Robert Strong, Washington and Lee University

Presidential Oral Histories |

Gerry Adams Oral History

Transcript

Riley

This is the Gerry Adams interview, as a part of the [William J.] Clinton Project. We're in Belfast at the Roddy McCorley social club. We're grateful for the time. You've had an unfortunate morning; you had a funeral. I thought in honor of your friend I might ask you first to say a few words about the person you lost, and why this was important to you.

Adams

We actually have three funerals. We have the funeral of the man we have just buried, a man called Richard Glenholmes. He was 85 years of age, older than Richard [McAuley] and me. I met him first 50 years ago. He was interned in Long Kesh at the same time I was, and he also spent time in jail in Britain.

The other man is a cousin of mine, Gerard Begley, who is about seven years older than me. When I was 5, he was 12 and we lived in the same street. We went to the same school, and he used to bring us to football games--Gaelic football--and hurling, which is an Irish sport. He was a great Gael, a great sportsperson, a very, very fine hurler himself. He taught me hurling and football when I was young, and he went on to teach my son and his peer group. Gerard is being buried tomorrow.

The best known of the trio is a man called Des Wilson, Father Wilson, whom I'll mention in my remarks later. He was 94 years of age. I saw him maybe two to three weeks ago. He clearly was dying. He had been in declining health for maybe the last three years or so but remained very politically engaged, very alert and up-to-date with Brexit and all the machinations of politics, North and South, and in the States, and everywhere else. It's just very unfortunate that we buried Dickie today, we bury Gerry Begley tomorrow, and we'll bury Father Des Wilson on Saturday.

It's a reminder of friendship and history lived and lives lived, and also a wee reminder of our own mortality. We all got totally soaked--It was a typical Irish funeral; it rained incessantly--In Ireland they say, "Happy the corpse that it rains on."

Strong

That would make a majority of them happy.

Adams

[laughter] Yes, absolutely. So that's the day we've had. I'm very thankful to you for shifting from Dublin to Belfast. So, fire on.

Riley

Terrific. I guess the way to start is to ask you if you had any knowledge of Bill Clinton before the Presidential campaign in 1992.

Adams

Not in any detailed or definitive way, but let me contextualize, if I may, as briefly as I can. As part of Sinn F?in's peace strategy, and also as part of trying to reshape the republican struggle to a certain extent and to grow a Sinn F?in organization--The dominant organization in republicanism had been the IRA [Irish Republican Army]--a group of other activists and I wanted to develop a popular political party. Sinn F?in existed, of course, but it was mainly a protest movement, which was a very good thing for it to be, but we wanted to develop it into something else. We had embraced electoralism, particularly following the hunger strikes of 1981.

So as part of looking at everything that we needed to do to get better at what we were trying to do--which was to end British rule in our country--we looked at other struggles, and clearly every other struggle had an international dimension to it. We were very influenced by South Africa, which was the big anti-apartheid movement throughout the world. I was a member of it, it was global and so on, and it influenced us.

When we looked then at our own ability or inability, the strong place that we had in the world was Irish America. We also had a number of organizations there, and other groups of people who were active on Irish issues, justice issues, calling for an end to British rule and so on.

As part of our engagement with Irish America, we met a man called Ciaran Staunton. He was from Mayo, had been heavily involved in the immigration reform movement, and we were talking to him about politics in the States and could we build popular support from where we were. Now remember, the peace process--my talks with John Hume, the Downing Street Declaration, these different developments--was happening here, and people in the States were watching this.

Another man I'd met years before, Niall O'Dowd, was the publisher of Irish America magazine and also of the Irish Voice newspaper. Niall picked up that there was something happening in Ireland; he was interested in the Hume-Adams talks, interested in other bits and pieces of what was going on here. He came to meet with me, and he met with some of our small group that were working on this. We were trying to build support in the States for the type of demands we were making for talks for Sinn F?in and our electorate to be given our rights, for an end to British militarism, and so on.

Niall was very taken by this and felt that things were shifting in the political landscape on the island of Ireland, and felt there was potential for what was happening in the States. He was one of the people telling us, "There's a Presidential election coming along; there's a guy here from Little Rock, he's a bit of an outsider, may be interesting."

Remember, before this, the administrations took the British line. The Irish government echoed the British line, so there was really no contest. In fact, the sections of Irish America were more advanced on these issues than the Irish government was. The Irish government at different times had campaigned against the MacBride Principles campaign, which was to end discrimination, and had campaigned against the people falsely jailed for the Birmingham bombings, and so on. The Irish government really had a very reprehensible role, generally speaking, in terms of all of this. The British, of course, had the position that this was an internal matter for the government of the United Kingdom, so butt out and stay out.

All of that was sort of bubbling along, back and forth. I became conscious that Jerry Brown and Bill Clinton were going to attend a Presidential candidates' meeting in New York. John Dearie was one of the organizers of that. I actually hadn't applied for a visa to go to the States, but we were strongly advised that I should apply for a visa, in the certain knowledge, as was the practice, that I would be denied it.

I did that, and I was denied it, and that then made it an issue for the folks in New York to raise with the Presidential candidates, and they both came out. Bill Clinton, because he became President, came out and said in response to the questions that he would give me a visa, and he would support the MacBride Principles campaign.

Pat Finucane was a human rights lawyer who had been killed as a direct result of collusion between the people who'd killed him and the British state. All of the people who killed him were employed by, were agents of, were armed by, were directed by, were given intelligence by the British services.

So President Clinton made what was a very advanced statement on all of these matters and also said he would look at appointing a Special Envoy. The Brits railed against that; they sent their key people over to argue against this approach. The Irish government may also have come out against the type of approach. I can't say that for certain, but I'm almost certain that they also protested about that.

Niall O'Dowd, meantime, had put together a collection of people, and his notional view was to try to get some sort of representative coalition of corporate America, of the labor movement, the trade union movement, of people who were involved in politics. So he brought together a number of people--and I hope I don't leave out any of the names.

Bill Flynn was one of them. Bill was a very wealthy, very successful businessperson. I had met him, actually, in Belfast, and he had met Martin McGuinness in Derry. He was in Derry for a conference, and he met Martin, and he subsequently came along and met me. I was taken by Bill, and we were friends up until his death just a year ago.

Niall had thought Chuck Feeney would be an interesting person for me to meet. I like to think that Chuck was what's best about America. He was just modest, down-to-earth, very progressive, decent, and very wealthy. He gave away his wealth. He gave it away to good causes everywhere.

There were two people from the labor movement: Joe Jameson and Bill Lenihan.

Adams

Bill Lenihan, and Bruce Morrison, who had been very active in immigrants' rights issues--famous for Irish people, anyway, Morrison. Visas. I think that was the grouping.

Riley

Can I ask a question about your trust in Niall O'Dowd? It's not clear from the materials that I've looked at where--This is a man who, when you dig into the history, is absolutely crucial to what's going on. I'm not quite clear how you came to have such trust in him in an environment where there were people who were untrustworthy.

Adams

Well, I didn't know him that well. I had been interviewed by him maybe a decade before all of this. He was very close to Ciaran Staunton, and they actually became brothers-in-law. Niall married Ciaran's sister. No, sorry, the other way around. Ciaran married Niall's sister, Orlaith [Staunton]. So Ciaran I knew. They also had picked up quite a bit of political savvy and contacts through their work on immigration reform.

And he was delivering. He said, "Look, I want you to meet this man Chuck Feeney. He's interested in Ireland." We met for a couple of hours, and we still remain friends to this day. Chuck doesn't enjoy good health now. Niall had also enlisted the support of Bill Flynn, whom I had already met. He was a guy who could deliver, and he was adding to the work that John Hume and I were doing by sounding out people in the political system in the States.

So fast-forward a moment--and I'll come back to this question again. Influential in all of this is [Senator Edward M.] Teddy Kennedy. Teddy Kennedy and John Hume were best buddies and had known each other for a very long time. Jean Kennedy Smith was appointed by President Clinton as Ambassador to Ireland, which was seen as a very good thing, a very positive thing. And it was a very good thing.

Now bring in Father Alec Reid. He is the thread that binds all of this together, because he had been tick-tacking between me and John Hume. He'd been talking to anybody on the British side he could talk to. He was talking to the Irish government. He was talking to me and listening to all of us. He presented himself to Jean Kennedy Smith, and the two of them hit it off and developed a really close relationship.

The saggart, as we called him--It's the word for priest--The saggart, Father Alec, nicknamed, or code-named, Jean Kennedy Smith an sp?irbhean, which is the Irish word for "spirit woman." She was wonderful; she was down-to-earth, very straight, and very prepared to push out the boundaries. She knew John Hume through her brother Teddy. They clearly didn't know me, but they wanted to endorse the work that John was doing, and I presume if I was good enough for John, I was good enough for them. Of course, Father Reid was talking to her and meeting her quite often and giving her the twists and turns of all of this.

By now Niall O'Dowd was talking directly to the Clinton administration. The people who had come together around Niall O'Dowd--their main spokesperson being Bruce Morrison--had visited us here in Ireland. They did so on the general platform that they weren't representing the White House, but they were going to report back to the White House.

They came to visit us here in Belfast, and we took them downtown to meet a very, very representative grouping of community people, of activists, of people working on the coalface trying to stop conflict, opposing sectarianism, opposing British militarism, working on behalf of victims, and so on. They were here for a very short period.

Our interest was to get an IRA cessation, and the interest, I presume, of the White House was to suss out, to ascertain, whether an IRA cessation was possible. But of course the IRA hadn't any notion of having a cessation and had no grounds from their point of view to do so. What I was working on, what John Hume was working on, and what Father Reid, particularly, and Father Des Wilson--whom I mentioned earlier--had been working on, was an alternative to armed actions.

We were making the case--or I was making the case, and Father Reid made this the core part of his doctrine--that there's no point denouncing. There's no point condemning. These are serious people. They wouldn't engage in armed actions if they thought there was some alternative, so get off your high horse. You have a responsibility as a clergyperson, as a church leader, as a politician, as a member of civic society to pursue justice, to pursue peace, and to show that there's an alternative way of doing it. So that's what we were--which is more, of course, than simply having an IRA cessation, even if one had been possible, which it wasn't.

There was then quite intricate to-ing and fro-ing around a lot of these elements, and we coined the phrase within our own small management group of keeping all the balls in the air. We had dialogue indirectly through a back channel with the British and John Hume as well. We had dialogue with the Irish government through Father Alec, and John Hume as well. And we had this American dimension to it, with Jean Kennedy Smith in a very central position, with John Hume also--and, of course, with Niall O'Dowd and Ciaran Staunton directly dealing with us back home.

When President Clinton became President Clinton, that group went to see him again and said, "Look, you made these commitments. You have to deliver on them."

I've always admired Bill Flynn for this. Bill Flynn died when he was in his early 90s, so he came to all of this when he was in his very late 60s or early 70s. He would have been a conservative Catholic American, probably Republican in his politics. He was a wonderful human being, and he was very curious. He was very open to ideas, very open to thinking.

In the 20 or 30 years that I knew him, and Richard as well, we used to have all sorts of interesting--He discovered one time that there was such a thing as gay priests, which was something he [laughter]--most of his friends were priests, remember--was really fascinated by, that there could be such a thing.

He discovered all sorts of other wonderful dimensions of human life, but he also became deeply engrossed in what we were doing. He also--and his friend Bill Barry--opened up connections into the unionist and loyalist community, which I think were very important, and which he kept. And Tom Moran--They're both dead now--both of them kept those connections open, which was important in trying to bring about a cessation, but also in trying to give people from that community a sense that they had a place in the scheme of things, which of course they have.

I'm compressing all of this. Our friends in the American group came back. Maybe there was only one visit, maybe there were two visits; I can't remember precisely at the moment. We had said to them, "Look, you can bring a part of the jigsaw to the table here. If the support of Irish America can be garnered, that's very powerful in persuading people they don't need armed actions. We have powerful allies in the USA [United States of America]."

Remember now, the connection between Irish republicanism and Irish radicalism and the Irish in America goes back to the Great Hunger, and there's a very stellar history. They funded the 1916 Rising; the Fenian movement was founded in the States. So there's a really progressive, connected, and knowledgeable thread between a section of Irish America and Ireland.

These folks started to think about what they could do. Of course, they wanted the President to keep to his commitments: to give me a visa, to come out against discrimination, to support MacBride, and so on. What I thought was really especially important from Bill Flynn's point of view and from his background--He agreed--He was chairperson of a group--He would ask them to host a conference in New York. What's the group called?

McAuley

The American Committee on Foreign Policy.

Riley

May I ask you? Before this group is convened in 1993, although the President had made commitments in the campaign, there were opportunities for him in '93 to make good on those commitments, and he didn't do so. Did you lose confidence in him at that time? Are there things you can tell us that are, to your knowledge, relevant for understanding why the President didn't grant the visa in '93 or didn't appoint a--

Adams

First of all, it wasn't a matter of me having confidence in the President. I didn't know the President from Adam. He didn't know me. But I had confidence in the people who had presented themselves and who clearly were well-intended, decent, good people who wanted to help, and I had increasing confidence in their seriousness.

That's why I was singling out Bill Flynn, because he then--and he may not put it like this, and the President may not even like it to be put like this--he put it up to the President. He hosted the conference. He said, "I'm inviting all the leaders including Adams, so let's get the visa."

He wouldn't have put it in those terms, but that was the reality. They also funded big full-page advertisements in the New York Times, which had a huge range of civic Irish America saying, "Mr. President." Why didn't Bill Clinton do it previously? He's only into the job; he's dealing with all sorts of other issues. From when he first made the commitment, I'm sure the Brits were beating down his door to say, "Hey, back off," and so on.

As we discovered afterward, most of his advisors were saying, "Don't do this." So here's this man just into the job. I wasn't at all annoyed, concerned, or disappointed. I've always said to Irish America, all the time--Our connection to the White House and to the USA is Irish America. It isn't President [George W.] Bush or President Clinton or President [Barack] Obama or President [Donald] Trump. It's the people in Irish America who put the issue of Ireland on the agenda.

In fairness to Bill Clinton, he became initially, in my opinion, intellectually involved in this issue. Niall O'Dowd said way back that this is an outsider, this is a guy who isn't part of the system, or part of the establishment, and what we were trying to get was some lateral action from outside the box.

So here we were on this little island, locked into conflict in perpetuity with our nearest neighbors unless someone came in to open it up and allow other options to be entertained or to take root.

On one of the visits of what we came to call the Connolly House Group, which was this group of individuals I have described who--on the back of the Presidential candidate's giving the commitments--had styled themselves as "Americans for a New Irish Agenda." They had actually been asked by some of the staff, or some of the senior people in the Clinton camp, to work for this new Irish agenda. We called them the Connolly House Group because that's where we met them.

On one of the times they came, they wanted, as an indication that they had clout, the IRA to call a cessation. Of course the IRA wouldn't do that, but what the IRA was persuaded to do was to have a period where there weren't any operations. So it wasn't that they called it cessation, or indeed that they were even, from their point of view, trading anything off. There was an ebb and flow to what they did in their armed campaign, so coincidentally then there was an ebb.

What caused us considerable consternation then--because it was very high-profile and got an awful lot of publicity--was the claim that there was a cessation. That caused a lot of difficulties with IRA grass roots and republican grass roots. But all of that was, I suppose, managed in due course.

What I'm trying to do is to give you some sense that this was a shifting situation, and every phone call, every connection, every meeting between the saggart and the sp?irbhean all presented other new elements, new challenges, or new positive things.

At the same time, we were now dealing directly with the Irish government, or at least with senior people in Fianna F?il who happened to be in the Irish government. They would argue they weren't representing the government, they were representing the party. We were trying to develop what John Hume and I had put together as a paper. What's always been very interesting to me is that very few people know what Hume-Adams is. I can't even remember. [laughter] It was broad principles. There would be no internal settlement; in other words, partition doesn't work. The people of the island have the right to determine their own future and so on.

But even though most people didn't know--and we hadn't released this--it was very popular because of John's stature. It was very popular, I suppose, from the broadly republican point of view because I was involved. People who thought that John Hume was sound were saying, "Well, it must be OK," and people who thought that I was sound were thinking that it was OK.

Of course, the unionists and the British were giving off about it, which meant there must have been something decent in it. We were trying to work out a position that reflected those types of broad principles in Irish government approach and policy. Also, Sinn F?in was a banned organization. Sinn F?in was a censored organization. Sinn F?in was banned from the use of municipal halls and town halls and so on in the Southern state. Interviews couldn't be carried at all in the Southern state. Voices of Sinn F?in representatives couldn't be carried in the Northern state or in Britain itself.

So there was a whole plethora of reforms, but the main ones were around the broad principles of a peace strategy. How do you get peace? The key to that was talk, unconditional talk.

Strong

Can I ask one question that goes back just a little bit? After you did get to know President Bill Clinton, did you ever have occasion to ask him why he made that promise in '92?

Adams

No.

Strong

He was advised not to, and the other candidates commonly promised a U.S. Envoy. But he was different in answering that question positively. I was just wondering if you ever--

Adams

Well, no, I never asked him, "Why did you do it?" I obviously thought he was right to do it. [laughter]

Strong

He came to think he was right to do it also.

Adams

No, no, he's always said--He and I would still meet occasionally, and we would still communicate occasionally. He would always say that any commitments that we made, we kept, that when he talked to me--or Martin McGuinness, for that matter--and we said we would do something, we did it. I was never, to tell you the God's honest truth, really that curious about why he did it. He did it. It was the right thing to do, and that was proven by subsequent events.

Now the other thing is this: he became more knowledgeable in the details, in the twists and turns and the nuances, of what was happening here, perhaps, than government ministers in Dublin.

Strong

And why did he--? How did he do that?

Adams

Well, first of all, he's very smart. That's first of all. He's very smart. It's not for me to say he was being told all these things about us, and then when we started to meet, maybe he was taken by some of what we were arguing for. Given his record on issues of importance to human beings, why wouldn't you talk to people? Why wouldn't you dialogue?

And then, you see--and this is of key importance--we started to become successful. How many successful U.S. foreign policy issues are there? Here was this one, which was being successful. And in fairness to Hillary Clinton, she also was very immersed in this process. We attended many meetings--and sometimes they were quite long meetings--and they were informal. There were formal meetings, of course, but there were also times when you would meet the President on the side of some other meeting, and it could take an hour, two hours. Hillary Clinton, the First Lady, was equally interested in all of what was going on.

So when you reflect on it, there was a change. Maybe John Major did his best, but John Major didn't do anything. From the Irish republican point of view, he was given the process on a plate by John Hume and me, and he didn't and couldn't, and maybe he just wasn't able to. I'm not saying he was bad or anything like that, just that he was a typical British Prime Minister.

Tony Blair came in, and then there was this, which I've always thought was very fortuitous, you had for a long number of years--you had two Clinton terms. You had Bertie Ahern, you had Tony Blair, and you had the continuity of a Sinn F?in leadership as well. I think Ahern and Blair were in government for three terms, or certainly for 10 years anyway. And they had a very, very small group of people dealing with this issue, and we in Sinn F?in had a very small group of people dealing with this issue, and it was the same group.

Unionist leaders changed, the SDLP [Social Democratic and Labour Party] leaders changed, different other people changed, but that Blair-Ahern-Sinn F?in axis remained, and for the time that President Clinton was in the White House, that was a very, very important dimension.

We then move forward to the point where we think we have all the parts of the jigsaw together. We have an agreement of sorts between ourselves and the Irish government, but it needs to be tied down. We have an agreement much more clearly between myself and John Hume.

The IRA cessation was not negotiated with the British. The British had very little involvement in it. Even though there were back channels to the British, and Father Alec was meeting with different people there, in fact, the development of the alternative to armed actions--which we were almost on the cusp of launching--then needed the American element. That's where Bill Clinton came up trumps.

A lot may have happened that I've missed in between, but essentially we wanted Joe Cahill to go to the States for two reasons: one, to talk to Irish republicans in Irish America, but also to indicate to Irish republicans in Ireland that there's a change. Joe Cahill was a very well-known figure; he had been sentenced to death by the British for the killing of a police officer some time ago. He had been involved in importation of weapons. He'd actually been deported from the States at least once.

So we applied for a visa for him and a man called Pat Treanor. Pat happened to be one of the people who was working on our American desk, but also Joe wasn't in good health. He needed somebody to accompany him. That's where Jean Kennedy Smith came into her own, and where Father Alec came into his own.

Of course Father Alec knew Joe Cahill. I don't know, I'm told all of this. Albert Reynolds told me, because Albert was by now the Taoiseach. By the way, Albert played a huge role in this. He had agreed to a Downing Street Declaration with John Major, which we thought was inadequate, and I think we were proved right. There would never have been a Good Friday Agreement if we had settled for a Downing Street Declaration. So we thought Albert was wrong to do that.

But in fairness, once he saw that we weren't budging on the issue, he continued to engage, and he spoke personally to Bill Clinton about the importance of getting the visa. I had made a public statement, and John Hume had made a public statement. Albert himself as Taoiseach had said that there were potential developments, and so on.

So he tells the story that Clinton came back to him and said, "You want me to give this guy a visa?" [laughter] Albert said, "I never told you he was an altar boy, but he's important in the scheme of things."

So Joe got the visa, and he and Pat Treanor went off. Part of the choreography of these events was that they would happen without announcement. Of course, the media got the story quite quickly that the IRA would declare a cessation, and then within a clearly defined short time, John Hume and I would meet with the Taoiseach in government buildings, and this would be seen as a new era moving into an unarmed phase of struggle.

Now famously that broke down maybe a year later with the Canary Wharf bombings, and I would say that was the time that Bill Clinton was probably under the most pressure, because all of the naysayers and the begrudgers were saying, "Oops. We told you so."

Riley

He had made the trip here by then?

Adams

Yes. And what happened when he made the trip--It was quite interesting, you see. The British insisted that we would go through a process of what they referred to as decontamination. John Major had said it would turn his stomach if he had to meet with me. It wasn't actually a gracious response to what was, in our Anglo-Irish situation, quite momentous developments. But anyway, that's the way it was.

Then of course the unionists were refusing to engage, and there were all sorts of restrictions, and none of the sensible things that could have been done were done with any grace. For example, when I got the visa to go to the States--and it was a very limited visa, I think it was for 36 hours.

Riley

This is the first one?

Adams

Yes. I was limited to New York. One of the things I found quite amazing was that the American broadcasters were absolutely in amazement that my voice couldn't be broadcast. They thought it was funny, they thought it was nuts, they thought it was--The British were almost embarrassed. It became a matter of ridicule. We don't broadcast the guy's voice? What sort of people are you?

Strong

By the way, was it always your words, just someone else's voice?

Riley

That they were hearing.

Adams

Well, insofar as I know.

Strong

They weren't editing your words?

Adams

No, I wouldn't think so, because it wasn't the British corporations, and they didn't all do it. It was some broadcasters who wanted to break the ban, but most broadcasters just didn't bother, because it would have been difficult. Say there's a breaking story. You have to go and get an actor; you have to go and get this, get that, and so on.

There was a nuisance element to it, and as there were obviously people in the British broadcasting system who supported censorship, there were remarkably good people who stood against it and were really robust critics of that sort of silly, stupid policy.

It goes back to what I think is the real essence of the entire peace process and the essence of any peace process anywhere. That is that dialogue is a must-have premise, and once you just take that concept, we have to talk. We have to listen. We can't decide who's going to talk for the other side. We can't say, "Oh, we'll talk to you, but we're not going to accept So-and-So."

This is what happens in some other conflict processes where they say, "Yes, we'll open up engagements, but we can't meet [Yasser] Arafat, or we can't meet whoever," and so on. Once you accept that concept, everything else flows.

If, however, you do what the British did here--They gave the management of the difficulties here over to the generals. They made it a military problem, but it was political, the residue of a colonial situation. Once you give it to the generals, they'll advocate, because you have to demonize. You have to dehumanize. You have to cut the oxygen of publicity. You can't have someone on television arguing the case, even if that someone is an elected official, when you're saying these people are criminals, they're terrorists, they're gangsters, or whatever it is.

Once you move in the direction of a military response to what is essentially a political situation, then all of these matters--like not being allowed to go to the States, or this is an internal matter for the government, or special rules for prisoners, or special courts or special trials or discrimination, the withholding of funding from communities--all of this follows a pattern.

You take the other position, it also follows a pattern. What I would imagine President Clinton was doing to a certain degree was acting on his instincts, on his general instincts as an outsider. Like These guys are making a bit of sense; let's give them a chance.

Riley

You made several trips to the United States in '94. I don't know whether you have any specific recollections of that first trip you want to add, but I'm particularly interested in that second trip. Richard, you were on that one, if I recall correctly. That's where you were in country for maybe two weeks.

Adams

Four weeks.

Riley

What are you finding out on those trips that's useful to you?

Adams

The first trip--again, I may not have been as coherent as I should have in trying to describe the two opposite approaches to resolving a problem. Part of the problem was that it backfired on the British because I, by that time, had a certain notoriety, so the media paid attention. I go to the States now, nobody knows. You just go in and go about your business and come out again. But then it was a huge story. The British, or some of their organs, described it as the worst crisis since the Suez Crisis. Major refused to take phone calls from President Clinton for days afterward.

So I think our entry, and my personage entering the States, couldn't have been managed better if we had complete control of--because for the time that I was there I did nonstop media, coast to coast, nonstop. Here you have this big Irish American diaspora, probably most of it dormant, worried about peace in Ireland, I suppose, saddened, disappointed by the ongoing conflict. Then here's somebody talking what they think is a bit of sense about partition, an end to British rule, make peace, the unionists are part of us, let's embrace each other, let's have self-government for the island, let's end discrimination, and so on.

Riley

It's interesting. You perceive your audience on that first trip mainly not to be the President of the United States or people in Washington but the diaspora.

Adams

Oh, absolutely, yes, and also those other progressive elements across the USA who would relate to these issues. Obviously, it was an honor to represent Sinn F?in, and I've always said we have no special entitlement to go to the USA, but people in the USA do have an entitlement. If they want to hear an argument, their government should have the maturity and confidence in them to hear that argument as opposed to bringing the opposite argument and giving them a platform all the time.

We met African Americans. We met Hispanic Americans. We met Native Americans. Never to this day do we take any position on domestic politics in the States. We would be very careful not to get caught up in any of that. In the big trip we took, which was a month long, we didn't do quite a city a day, but we did near enough a city a day. We went from coast to coast, and we covered a huge amount of ground. The exposure that had been created by the first visa meant that wherever we went there were huge crowds, and clearly the vast majority of them were Irish Americans. But there was also huge media attention.

Then remember, there were things happening back here which fed into this, so it wasn't like a rock group going on concert. It isn't just what I'm saying or somebody else is saying that's part of our outreach to the people we're meeting. It's also that they're watching what's happening back home. Are the peace talks going to start? Oh, Tony Blair is coming, so that looks more interesting. Will the cessation be put together again? Will Blair open up talks? Will the unionists respond? All of those were being watched.

Remember also that while it may have been the days before social media, there were still lots more electronic and other connections from Ireland into the USA, so people were very conversant with what was happening, people who were interested, and more were interested, because here was the possibility of getting peace in Ireland. So those who maybe went to a rally where I was speaking got on the phone back home, or got on to some news agency or television or some means of keeping up to date. So it was a developing and a very, very live story.

When President Clinton came, it was at a time when the Brits weren't engaging, and at that time I realized the strength and the power of a Presidential visit, because of course the White House were bringing, in a very focused way, all of their muscle to bear on Downing Street. Things weren't going well, and if my memory serves me right, just on the eve of that visit there was a commitment from Downing Street to start peace talks within a few months.

President Clinton was seen like the cavalry coming in, and there started, I think, a love affair between him and Ireland, because what had been an intellectual embrace--dealing with the politics of it and all the rest of it--now became emotional. When he came, people were genuinely glad to see him. This is a small island with huge links to the States but has always had an independent mind around U.S. foreign policy issues. We'd be against the blockade of Cuba, would have been against the Iraq War, would be pro-Palestinian and so on--most people, anyway.

So here they were with their Stars and Stripes, saluting a U.S. President. I remember a friend of ours in Derry, Martha, writing this really [laughter] brilliant piece--and she's an American woman, isn't she?

McAuley

Yes.

Adams

She's lived in Derry for 40 years. And it's because he did something. He was seen to do something. He was there. I think that was the visit where he went from--I forget in what sequence, but he went Belfast, Derry, Dublin, or Dublin, Derry, Belfast. The crowds got bigger, and it was almost as if they were vying with each other. The people were trying to find the space to say, "Well done, thank you. You played a role in this."

Riley

Did that dynamic reach also into the IRA?

Adams

There were elements in the IRA that were hostile to all of this, and some subsequently left the IRA and formed these other small groups. But what I would describe as the thinking IRA people had signed on for this proposition now. They might have been uncomfortable and distrustful about different aspects of it.

Going back to the beginning of this discussion and me telling you about the funerals we're attending at this time, two of those people--well, three of them, I'm sure, but only two of them are what you would call activists, Father Des Wilson and Dickie Glenholmes--they embraced this process. They were thinking people who wanted peace, wanted their children to be freed from the shackles of war and imprisonment and all the rest of it, and just wanted to live in harmony with their neighbors with a sense of equality for everyone.

The thinking people, despite concerns, would clearly have seen that Ireland now was an international issue, that the Brits weren't engaging, but they were being forced to engage because those who were part of the process that had been put together were pushing them to do so. It's hard to generalize about this. If you put 10 republicans in this room, they may all have different views of it, and views of how it was done, but I would say to a man and a woman that those who had embraced it then would still be glad they had done so.

Strong

I want to go back and ask about something you said earlier that is very intriguing. You said Clinton had command of detail. He was smart. Everyone agrees to that. He has command of detail, lots of different issues.

But you also said he had nuance. You can't really brief someone and give them nuance. That has to come from some other ability or some level of interest. I had really two questions. Do you know how he got that? And secondly, was he ever in error? Was there ever something about Irish history he didn't fully understand or something going on in Irish politics that surprised him that he had to be corrected on? Or was he just surprisingly in tune with what was going on almost always?

Adams

Well, it's hard to know. When I say that he had a micro knowledge of a lot of the detail--and you're quite right to single out my use of the word nuance--that's probably more of me criticizing those who should have had those. [laughter]

Strong

No, that's rare. I think you're right.

Adams

He also retained an interest, and you would expect somebody to do this anyway. Say the DUP [Democratic Unionist Party] aren't talking. If he went and met the DUP, he would come back and say to you, "Look"--and he was right about this--"I think Peter Robinson will do a deal."

Now it might have taken Peter Robinson five years to get round to do it, [laughter] but he was right about that. He had worked out the trajectory of the thing. He obviously wouldn't say things to us. He would be more relaxed now with what he might say, but in the course of all of this, he wouldn't have said, "John Major should have done more," or "the Brits don't get it," or "the unionists have got their heads in the sand." But one could presume that those might be the little judgments he was making in his own head around this.

I also think if you're President Clinton and you're looking back and you're recognized universally as being a primary part of the Irish peace process, that's good. That's good for you just as an achievement, that's good for you. Particularly as Ireland is only a small island. It's not there with these big conflicts. When you see so many catastrophes happening throughout the world, to be part of something which is at least--It's not finished yet, and it's still a journey, and we still have to complete it.

His interest is retained to this day. If I got in touch with him now and asked him to do something, if it were humanly possible for him to do it, he would do it. He would offer to reach out or to try and use whatever influence he may have. That's why I use these terms of an intellectual, but an emotional connection as well.

I also have to say that we get on well. I never went out with him for a beer, never went golfing, but I met the man many, many times, lots of times accompanied by Martin McGuinness, lots of times on my own. He made a wonderful eulogy to Martin McGuinness when Martin died. I think he liked what we were trying to do, and he knew that we weren't in it for the graft, that we weren't in it to be messers, that we were serious activists trying to deal with a very bad situation and trying to straighten it out, or to make it better than it had been previously.

When you consider that he flew from the States to Ireland--and I asked him to do so--to speak at Martin's funeral, that shows a commitment. That wasn't for Bill Clinton. That was for us; that was for Martin McGuinness, for his family. That was him saying thank you. I can't put it better than that. That's where the personal connectedness comes into all of this.

Riley

How quickly did that develop? I can't remember the year you first met him, '95?

Adams

It was in Belfast.

McAuley

Ninety-five.

Riley

That was the street meeting.

Adams

Oh yes, yes.

Riley

Was that orchestrated?

Adams

Oh yes, that was--

McAuley

The Shankill and Falls Road and then the queen's thing was that night.

Adams

Yes, that was some negotiation. [laughter] The President's coming, and I asked that he come to West Belfast. I was told, "No, that's not possible, he can't come to West Belfast."And we said, "Well, look, it's really important that he comes to West Belfast, and comes to the Falls Road, because things are still difficult."

We were very open about him going to the Shankill Road and to unionist communities and so on. We would always encourage that type of approach. I forget the detail of this. They then came back and said yes. This was on the eve of the trip or very close to it, when he was actually going to land in Belfast.

They said, "Yes, can you identify a place?" We made a number of suggestions to them, and it ended up that he would go and visit a bakery shop and--

Strong

You would happen to be there.

McAuley

Gerry had already met Bill Clinton. This wasn't the first time they met. This was November, December '95. We had done meetings in the White House; we went through a gradual approach of initial officials: Anthony Lake and Nancy Soderberg, then Ron Brown, and then eventually Bill Clinton.

Adams

That's right.

Riley

So in the White House you had met before?

Adams

Yes. I forget a lot of the detail as well. But just to finish this little story, I had to meet I forget who it was. We met in the Culturlann, a cultural center on the Falls Road. I forget the guy's name.

McAuley

It was an official out of the American Embassy.

Adams

He turned up in a trench coat, a very--[laughter]

McAuley

He was wearing an earpiece, so he was in constant touch to make sure that we were in position.

Adams

We had said we wanted this to be photographed, and they said that couldn't happen. But eventually they said, "Oh, that's OK." But Richard McAuley, being quite a cynical person, went and got a cameraman, if I can use that term, and put him upstairs in the bakery.

McAuley

We didn't get the cameraman, but I got his camera. [laughter] OK. So when eventually they met and security came around, the press weren't allowed around.

Adams

They blocked the press.

McAuley

So the press couldn't get a photograph, because the security van was in front of it. But I was beside Gerry.

Riley

And you had the camera?

Adams

Yes, he had the camera.

McAuley

I had the camera.

Riley

So you get the credit?

Adams

He gets the credit.

McAuley

Now other photographs subsequently emerged from other people who were close by and took photographs. But the photograph that turned up in the media that night was mine.

Adams

They blocked the press corps. So the press corps that was accompanying the President--

Riley

The White House did?

Adams

Well, whoever did. Yes. A lot of the security would have been, obviously, British security. Richard was one step ahead of them and, as he says, got the photograph.

Riley

Are we OK to continue?

Adams

Yes, we need to maybe finish in the next 20 minutes or so.

Riley

To return to the core question, it was about your relationship with the President himself. How did this emerge? I would guess that it must have been a fairly formal relationship to begin with. Did warmth develop over time?

Adams

He's a very informal person, and the First Lady is also very informal and quite direct, because they ask questions. Obviously, there are times when they're making suggestions or propositions or giving advice, but a lot of times they just ask questions. They're just curious about what's happening and how things can be straightened out.

And even though these were very small things, at different times we would bring a small gift. Chelsea [Clinton] was only a youngster at the time, so we'd bring some little Irish artifact. I think they were genuinely touched by that. It was just a natural thing you would do.

The same thing had happened significantly with John Hume. What allowed the process that John and I had developed to endure despite all the difficulties was that we trusted each other. Obviously, we were each guilty of some of the political tactics, but we knew that we were each serious about this process, that we wanted this process to work. So the President, in my opinion, knew, as a consequence of both developments on the ground, and also from his engagement with us, that we were serious about the process.

As I was going to say earlier, when the first cessation broke down, that must have been the time when it was most difficult for him in terms of this gamble that he had taken. But despite all those difficulties, because in comes Tony Blair and we again are--

Riley

And Bertie Ahern shows up about the same time.

Adams

Yes. So we get the process back in place and strengthened, and the President played a pivotal role in the Good Friday Agreement negotiations. First of all--just to reverse a wee bit--the British had been saying that these matters--whatever the issue happened to be, no matter how controversial it was--were internal matters for the government of the United Kingdom, so nobody was allowed to get into it.

The President then appoints an Envoy, and in comes George Mitchell. Then the British position starts to change, and we have over the course of the process all sorts of international players coming in, whether it's people overseeing arms being put beyond use, whether it's people coming in to look at policing, whether it's people coming in to look at other aspects of it, people from Norway, from Canada, from South Africa, from the States.

You have the internationalization in a real way of what the British had kept as a grubby little secret that nobody could interfere with; now it was open for best practice to at least be tried, and for these highly skilled and highly qualified practitioners, whether it was in jobs discrimination, whether it was in conflict resolution, whether it was in some other issue, coming in and being part of a commission or being part of some other committee or some endeavor to straighten out whatever the sectoral issue may have been.

That was, from our point of view, a way back to where we had been when we first started to look at internationalizing the Irish struggle. We now had different players coming in to assist the process.

So in the Good Friday Agreement negotiations, the UUP [Ulster Unionist Party] wouldn't talk to us. Some of the UUP, including its current leaders, walked out of the negotiations, and the DUP didn't walk in, so the DUP weren't there. We had a Good Friday Agreement made, and we were prepared to talk to anybody that would talk to us.

I often joke that my best conversations at that time with unionists were in the men's room, [laughter] because when you're on your own they would have the crack with you, they'd have a yarn with you and so on. The loyalists, for that matter, were very down-to-earth and immediately--These are working-class people who had been involved in UDA [Ulster Defence Association] or UVF [Ulster Volunteer Force] and the Progressive Unionist Party and whatever, one of the other small groups. They had no pretensions about this. They'd come in, David Ervine on the one hand, Gary McMichael, shook hands, and get down to trying to do business.

That isn't to say that they abandoned their principles or anything else, but they were prepared to talk and chat and be friendly. I often think that Bill Flynn was an influence and Tom Moran in breaking down some of those little barriers as well.

Riley

Can you tell us exactly what President Clinton's role was in helping to get that accomplished?

Adams

His role, one can surmise--and he would have been obviously informed by his own officials--was to try to get the British, from the Irish government and from our perspective, to do more on certain issues, and obviously also to try to get us and others to do more on certain issues. But if you want to sum it up in one sentence, what President Clinton actually signed up for at the end of it was that the USA would be a guarantor for the Good Friday Agreement. That's what he signed up for, in my late-night conversations with him.

If you go back to the Connolly House Group or the Americans for a New Irish Agenda, if you go back to Bill Flynn and Chuck Feeney and Bruce Morrison and so on, that's what they had set out to do, to use the influence of the USA to bring about progress and change of a positive kind on the island of Ireland. It's my certain view--We're doing this interview on the 6th of November; we're in the middle of the catastrophe of Brexit, of all the ramifications of that, and that'll be rolling out for another few years yet, and I still think that the USA has a strategic role to play, because the peace process is exactly that. It is a process. So it isn't over. Peace isn't made in one single action.

An end of conflict doesn't necessarily mean peace. It's obviously positive and good that it would happen, but you have to build in justice. You have to go back to the notion of respecting each other, of having tolerance, of building harmonious societies in which people have legislative rights and all the rest of that.

And from the Irish republican and from the democratic perspective, while our laws are made in London, they're not going to be the type of laws that perhaps we require. Why can't we make our own laws? Why can't we govern ourselves with the wit and the intelligence and the right to do so?

I'm just back from Washington two weeks ago. Nancy Pelosi, the Speaker, made a very forthright statement which she had previously made here, that if the Brexit--or if there's any damage done because of Brexit to the Good Friday Agreement, there'd be no trade agreement between the USA and Britain. That again is a strength of Irish America. She made that statement in London, Dublin, and in Derry, and in our presence in Washington two weeks ago she made the same statement.

Richie Neal, who's now chair of one of the most powerful committees on the Hill, echoed that and made the same statement. So not only is there a need for continued involvement of Irish America and of the USA and of their politicians, that's the trend that was started by Bill Clinton.

If you look at it, JFK [John Fitzgerald Kennedy] didn't do anything. In fairness, he probably wasn't asked to do anything. Ronnie Reagan didn't do anything. George Bush the elder didn't do anything. His son actually was quite good on the issues when he came into it. But the man who broke the mold, who turned the policy upside down, was Bill Clinton. The continuation 20 years later in the middle of another phase of our relationship with England shows the strength and the correctness of the position that Bill Clinton brought up.

I just want to mention another thing. I read your question about whether I had raised other issues with him. I consistently raised the blockade of Cuba with him. I consistently raised the Palestinian issue with him. I raised the war in Iraq with President Bush, which he didn't take very well, but that's no matter.

I also raised--and I always regret I didn't push it--Leonard Peltier with President Clinton. To this day I regret that I didn't push him harder on the issue, because our focus was on our own issues. I was just taken by this guy being out there. I raised it, but I didn't push it as hard maybe as I should have, and I'm sorry that I didn't.

Strong

Did he ever talk to you about other peace processes? Did he ever talk to you about the Middle East?

Adams

Regularly, yes. Who was the Secretary of State, Madeleine Albright?

Strong

Albright.

Adams

She, too. They used Ireland as an example in other conflicts.

Strong

He said that on multiple occasions, that the rest of the world should look at what happened here.

Adams

He did, yes. I can't remember, there were that many. There were the big difficulties in parts of Africa. There was Iraq, there was Iran.

McAuley

Balkans.

Adams

The Balkans. There was the ongoing Middle East crisis. So, yes, he did raise these things. And in our small way, we also have tried to help in other conflict resolution processes, and we've always kept the White House briefed on what we were doing. We did it in terms of Colombia. Martin McGuinness did it in terms of Sri Lanka.

McAuley

Philippines.

Adams

Philippines. The Basques. Bill Clinton, at my request, tweeted a message of welcome to the ETA [Euskadi Ta Askatasuna] ending their campaign. We briefed him on that on an ongoing basis. If we're doing anything anywhere, we always make sure that the President is briefed--that President Clinton is briefed.

McAuley

Even now.

Adams

Even now.

McAuley

We have a good relationship with the people around him, so--

Riley

I'm deeply aware of that from our earlier communications. One of the things that scholars are always interested in is the ability of one person to affect history. It seems like this is an ideal example of instances where you as an important figure here and Bill Clinton as an important figure in the United States--I can't imagine this happening if President Bush the elder had been reelected.

Adams

Oh, no, no, you're right. I would think not. No harm to President Bush. It was the quirkiness of it, and Bill Clinton being who Bill Clinton is, and that he comes from where he comes from, and that he's outside. I've read all of Hillary's books, and I've read a number of books about Bill Clinton. He told me once that he came to Dublin, and this is when he was in Oxford, and he was conscious of the civil rights struggle.

So as I was saying earlier, we were just blessed with this coincidence of having three, four, five elements. I go back to what I started off with to a certain degree. Des Wilson and Alec Reid in the streets of Belfast saying, "You have to treat people with respect, you have to listen to people, you have to talk to people. Stop the messing and get down to trying to sort out these problems."

Then Father Reid making his way around, knocking on all the doors diligently, persistently, like a little terrier dog, never giving up, all the time going back and going back. These things matter. Personal relationships matter. What was it that inspired Father Reid to go and talk to Jean Kennedy Smith? They got on, and she's talking to her brother, and her brother is talking to the President. These personal relationships do matter.

Strong

Did you worry when Clinton was under investigation and then threatened by impeachment that those other issues would have consequences for this process?

Adams

Yes, I did, yes, of course, because he was very important to the process. As time went on, he became less important, which I'm sure he would accept, because once we got Martin McGuinness and Ian Paisley and the government together, it took on a certain velocity of its own, to the good.

And here we are, that's ended. The power-sharing government hasn't been in place now in almost three years, so it's proof again you can never take anything for granted. What's the big achievement? The big achievement is that our problem now is only a political problem. You have your own political problems.

Riley

Yes, we do. [laughter]

Adams

We have plenty of problems. But 20 years ago the political problem here would have, on the one hand, been administered--if that's the right word--by armed groups, from the British, from the republican, from the loyalist, where now that isn't happening. Thank God that isn't happening, and isn't, in my opinion, likely to happen, if we all keep pushing away at what we need to do.

Riley

Thank you.

Adams

Thank you.

Riley

You've been very generous with your time, and it's a privilege to come talk with you again. This will be quite an addition to our collection.

Adams

OK. And you're going to send us a copy?

Riley

I'm going to send you the transcript. It goes no place until you've had a chance to review it, and at that point you can make stipulations concerning release. If you want to hold on to this for a period of time, you may do so. If there are pieces of it that are sensitive to you, then you may do that. We're entirely at your disposal in terms of the treatment of it.

Adams

One of the things I want to check, because I may have got a bit confused on the meeting we did in Connolly House. I think that might have been the first meeting by that big group. We can check that once you send it back to us.

Riley

Either you can fix it in the text or if you want to append.

McAuley

Part of the difficulty inevitably when you're doing this is, you're going from Hume-Adams, it starts in '86, through to Clinton in '92. Then you're in the peace process, and it's years, and with all the twists and turns, it's easy to get the timeline mixed up.

Riley

Exactly. What we didn't want to do is come in and, in an hour and a half or so, try to replicate the timeline. It's much more valuable for us to get your assessment of people and the overall process, because that timeline we can get into and find. It's been a privilege visiting with you again, listening to you.

Adams

Thank you. I might, if you want, give you this. Richard photocopied it. It's a book I did. There's a piece, "President Clinton on the Falls Road."

Riley

Yes. Please. We'd be delighted to have this. With your permission, we would append it to the transcript so that people could look at it. [See Addendum]

McAuley

Yes, sure. What I did was some years ago Gerry did a book, which was called Hope and History here. But in the United States it was called A Farther Shore. It deals with that period, and it's quite comprehensive from our perspective. Other people have different perspectives, but from ours it's quite comprehensive in the twists and the turns, as it could be.

Adams

This is a piece I wrote on request. Nancy Soderberg was putting together for the 25th anniversary of the cessation, and she asked me to do a piece.

McAuley

That was the one this summer.

Adams

This summer. And then there's a wee piece here. We have a family home up in Donegal, and the guy whose land we're on is a man called Paddy McGeady. He's a native Irish speaker--He's dead; he just died about five or six years ago--he's a bachelor, and a countryman, and a very sort of quaint and interesting person.

I said to him one time when I was up, "I have to go into Belfast here to meet President Clinton and Hillary Clinton. Would you like to come?" [laughter] And he said, "I'd love to come."

So away we went, and I did the meeting, and then I brought Paddy in and introduced him to the Clintons, and they were very gracious and got photographs taken with him. And that was Paddy's--He was back up in Donegal. [laughter].

Riley

I bet the Clintons loved that. I bet President Clinton--This would be so reminiscent of his people in Arkansas. This is a man who doesn't come from much himself.

Strong

Can I quickly ask one more question?

Riley

We'll stay here for hours if you'll let us.

Strong

Your book is very good. Is there a scholar or journalist you would recommend people should consult for accurate accounts of the Easter Peace or other aspects of--

Adams

Conor O'Clery's The Greening of the White House is a good piece. Deaglan de Breadun's piece is good. Niall O'Dowd's stuff is good. My books tell it from our perspective or my perspective.

The other interesting thing was that I was writing a fairly regular blog or article for the Irish Voice, and then I subsequently published those in book form. We found it really instructive; it's almost a diary of events because you're writing about being in Washington.

McAuley

There's an article every week, and every week you were writing about whatever was going on that particular week.

Adams

Yes, those are available.

Riley

Those were contemporaneous?

Adams

Yes, more or less. Obviously, they weren't talking about usually sensitive things.

McAuley

You were trying to give people a sense of what was going on at that particular moment.

Adams

The other thing where I was always a bit gratified, because it was important for us--President Clinton invited me and Richard to the CGI [Clinton Global Initiative], which met annually in New York. He didn't have to do that. I was the only Irish politician. Albert went once or twice. But we went.

McAuley

Albert went once or twice, but unlike others, Gerry didn't have to pay for his membership every year.

Adams

That was important. It's important. It was a learning process, and we always learned stuff just listening to the different very skilled presenters and met people from all over the world.

But also it was important just in terms of our own sense of ourselves, that people knew that Bill Clinton was inviting us in. You were seen as having some traction in whatever was going on. That was an act of generosity.

McAuley

I thought it was always interesting that CGI in New York was for three days. It was held every year when the UN [United Nations] was meeting at the General Assembly, and he would have these Presidents, Prime Ministers, political leaders from all around the world taking part in this event. He always made time to do a private meeting. Every year.

Adams

Yes, that's right.

Riley

I'm telling you something you already know, but this is for him, I think, the pinnacle of his accomplishments as President, when he's thinking about the holes in the public's knowledge of his Presidency, and he's dealing with us. We've spent now four complete days with him doing this same thing, talking with him about his childhood and so forth.

But Ireland was immediately the thing he said, "This is what we need to do." And that's why his staff was in touch with you and some others. It was important for him that we make sure this isn't lost, so having your voice is really important.

Adams

There may be lots of issues I haven't covered. So if there are supplementaries, I don't mind hooking up again and doing that.

Riley

OK.

Adams

OK. Thanks a million for traveling so far.

 

[See Addenda]

Addenda Contents

Writings contributed by Gerry Adams during interview

Selected chapters from Mr. Adams's book A Farther Shore: Ireland's Long Road to Peace (published in Northern Ireland in 2003 as Hope and History)

November 13, 2004, essay Mr. Adams wrote on the 2004 U.S. Presidential election: "Amid Changes, US Parties Have Ireland in Common"

Largas blog piece published October 2, 2009, "At the Clinton Global Initiative"

2019 essay Mr. Adams wrote at the request of Nancy Soderberg for the 25th anniversary of the cessation of hostilities

Short vignette of a meeting between the Clintons and an Irish countryman

G. Adams, 11/07/19, Addendum A-1

Gerry Adams is a fairly regular visitor to the USA. Once again he was there for a Presidential election result. He Wrote about his observation of the situation there in Village Magazine on November 13th 2004.

Amid changes, US parties have Ireland in common

The USA is a complex country with many contradictions. How could it be otherwise? In other land masses as vast as this regional or national rivalries are taken for granted. But here despite ethnic or racial background, all share a common nationality - one flag - one President - one United States.

In my 10 years or so of dipping into the USA there have been many changes. I came to New York for the first time during the early days of the Clinton era. Those were ebullient hopeful times. The mood in the White House on St Patrick's Day, as the Irish cheerfully, triumphally crowded into every nook and cranny of that historic building, seemed to match the mood outside.

The economy was buoyant. America was in good form. Or most of America was.

Clinton was excellent on Ireland, but he and I had different views on other foreign policy issues during our many meetings.

None of these issues, whether Rwanda, Cuba, the plight of the Third World countries crippled by foreign debt, genocide in the emerging Balkan states or famine in Africa seemed to penetrate the mass media here. Except for the Middle East.

I heard little criticism of the president on any of these issues from the Americans I met and worked with. In fact the first criticism I heard was over his pro-abortion stance and then later over allegations around the Lewinsky affair.

I was in New York for the 2000 election result. When I went to bed Al Gore was in the lead. I awoke to the extraordinary developments in Florida. For the rest of that visit I was witness to the arguments which that episode kicked off. People everywhere were galvanised by the election controversy. And then Al Gore conceded and the debate subsided.

George Bush became president. The style was different on Ireland but the substance was the same. And despite the lampooning the president receives in the media I always found him to be a man able to connect with his constituents - especially after 11 September.

In New York a month or so afterwards the trauma was obvious. Here was a city in shock. People were gloomy, frightened, worried. American flags and proclamations of defiance against Bin Laden were everywhere.

Everyone I met knew someone who had perished in the Twin Towers. I knew a number of people myself. Some were Sinn F?in supporters.

Mayor Rudy Giuliani, Governor George Pataki and President Bush led the fightback to restore public morale. It was Bush's finest hour. However, from outside the USA concerns began to be raised about the direction of the "War on Terror". There appeared to have been no real debate here about the invasion of Afghanistan. Much of the rest of the world was debating and criticising these actions. Some American friends of mine spoke bitterly of "anti-American feeling", particularly in Ireland.

Others worried about how their country was perceived internationally. By the time of the invasion of Iraq the debate was much less muted in the USA. For the first time my American friends were arguing about foreign policy. In some cases Sinn F?in's opposition to the war in Iraq was the spur for such comment but mostly it was just because this was the talking point of the time. Americans cared. But yet there was no national focus.

The Democrats were betwixt and between - as unsure on the war as their fellow citizens - supportive of their troops, and not wanting to seem unpatriotic.

Then the primaries and the run-in to the conventions started. One day on Capitol Hill I noticed a difference. There was a buzz in the corridors and elevators and on the little underground railroad that ferries people from one part of the Hill to the other. The Republicans were galvanised. The Democrats were coming awake. There was talk of Hillary Clinton as a contender. And then John Kerry emerged as the democratic front-runner.

On Tuesday evening 2 November as I left Ireland the media speculation was of a high turnout favouring the Democrats. But later George Bush's second term as US president was announced by the pilot of our American Airlines plane as it flew high over Portland, Maine, on the last leg into JFK airport.

As I sat in the immigration hall, a victim of Homeland Security and - apart from Richard McAuley - the only white person in a large crowd of slightly apprehensive black and Asian men, women and children, it was obvious that things are still changing here.

Since then Richard and I have endured a city-a-day leapfrog from New York to San Francisco. Our events are organised by both Republicans and Democrats. The Democrats are on a downer, the Republicans justifiably pleased. Their election success was overseen by one Karl Rove. I have heard him described by Democrats as a "genius".

The Republicans successfully tapped into traditional feelings against abortion, same gender marriages, stem cell experimentations, as well as patriotic feelings engendered by the "War against Terror". Bush exuded a sense of conviction and certainty.

Many outside the USA will see this Republican victory simply as a mandate for the war in Iraq. But it's much more complex than that. It is America - mainly white America - forming its wagon train in a circle around traditional domestic values as much as anything else.

The USA is polarised. Some will argue it was always so. But never so obviously or at a time of such international discord and uncertainty. In the meantime there's work for the Irish American lobby. One Republican friend complains that the two Irish papers here The Voice and The Echo supported Kerry - so did most of the activist groups. My friend feels vindicated for his support for Bush but worried about how all of this will affect the Irish lobby. I tell him not to worry. Ireland is the one thing many Republicans and Democrats have in common.

President Bush is now mapping out his administration and strategies and priorities for the next four years. Our task, along with Irish America, is to ensure that the Irish peace process remains a priority, despite the many other pressing issues.

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