Belfast Telegraph

Gerry Adams, one of the world’s longest-serving party leaders

A new era in Irish politics will begin without him.

Gerry Adams is one of the longest serving party leaders in the world, as Sinn Fein president for 34 years.

He is beaten only by Robert Mugabe, Zimbabwe’s ruler for 37 years.

But the changing of the guard has finally come, marking a radical transition for the republican party.

Mr Adams’ resignation brings to an end a remarkable career that began when he was a barman at a Belfast pub.

Born in October 1948 in west Belfast, both of his parents came from families that had been active in armed republicanism.

While still a teenager he became an active republican.

He worked as a barman at the Duke of York in Belfast, where he became fascinated by the political gossip among the punters.

He soon became involved in civil rights protests and in 1972, at the age of 24, he was interned – imprisoned without charge.

Despite persistent allegations, Adams has always denied being a member of the IRA.

However in 1972, under the insistence of the IRA leadership, he was released from internment to take part in ceasefire talks with the UK government.

The talks failed and what followed became known as Bloody Friday, when the IRA planted at least 20 bombs across Belfast in one day, killing nine people and injuring 130.

In 1983 Mr Adams replaced Ruairi O Bradaigh as Sinn Fein president and became MP for West Belfast.

He resigned from the position in 2011 to run for election in the Republic of Ireland, where he was elected as a TD (member of the Irish Parliament).

By 1988 Mr Adams had entered into secret peace negotiations with the former leader of the SDLP, John Hume, which helped pave the way for the 1994 IRA ceasefire and eventually the Good Friday Agreement.

In recent years the 69-year-old’s political life was overshadowed by his personal life, when it emerged that his brother Liam Adams had raped and sexually abused his daughter.

Mr Adams came under fire for failing to report the allegations of sex abuse to the police.

In 2013 he gave evidence in Belfast Crown Court against his brother, who was later jailed for 16 years.

The following year he was arrested by detectives investigating the 1972 murder of Belfast woman Jean McConville, who was abducted and killed by the IRA in 1972.

He was questioned for four days before being released without charge.

To some, Gerry Adams is hailed as a visionary and a peacemaker, to others he is vilified as a terrorist.

As he steps out of the limelight, a new era of Irish politics will begin without him.

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