Gerard Adams

Irish republican and father of Gerry Adams
Click to follow

Gerard Adams, political activist: born 1926; married Annie Hannaway (died 1992; 10 children, and three children deceased); died Belfast 17 November 2003.

Gerard Adams provided the Irish republican movement with a lifetime of faithful service and, in the form of his son Gerry, with its outstanding leader of the late 20th century. It is a measure of how far the Adams family has come that, due to his father's death, Gerry Adams has cancelled his involvement in an election campaign in which Sinn Fein is bidding to become the largest nationalist party in Northern Ireland.

Gerard Adams spent decades in an IRA which was small, easily contained by the authorities and with no real hope of achieving its aim of bringing about a united Ireland by force. But before his death, he first watched the IRA mushroom into a formidable terrorist army and later switch much of its energies into political rather than lethal action.

His son was the principal architect of this evolution. Gerard Adams played an important role in the background, in concert with other IRA veterans such as Joe Cahill, in giving the sanction of tradition to his son's sometimes controversial innovations. To differentiate him from his more prominent son he was known as "Old Gerry" and on occasion "auld da Adams".

The Adams family are what might be called the aristocrats of Belfast republicanism, especially after Gerard married Annie Hannaway, member of another republican dynasty. He and his wife had 13 children, 10 of whom survive. Gerry Adams is the eldest of these.

In 1943 Gerard was shot and injured by police after he launched a gun attack following the hanging of another IRA volunteer. He served five years in prison for the incident, a police report describing him as honest, sober, industrious and generally of good character.

A building labourer, he was often unemployed in the years that followed because of his prison record and republican reputation. When the troubles broke out in the late 1960s he helped organise local opposition to the army in west Belfast, the army accusing him of orchestrating riots. According to Gerry Adams, he

received a fierce beating by British troops. His face was a mask of blood. He was subsequently beaten quite badly on a few more occasions, and once the paratroopers hammered him very badly as he was coming out of mass. In his own day he had been a robust, stocky little fighter, and they gave him a very hard time.

Father and son were both interned in the early 1970s, along with various other family members. Searches of the family home and clashes with troops were a feature of the years that followed. In recent times Adams senior generally remained in the background, but he and the rest of the extended family provided support for his son and a sense of assurance to doubters that the ideals of the old IRA were safe.

David McKittrick