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Thursday, 31 May, 2001, 20:18 GMT 21:18 UK
Adams as first minister?

Could Gerry Adams become Northern Ireland's first minister within five years?

This is the prediction of Martin McGuinness in an interview with the Daily Telegraph newspaper and one that is sure to horrify many unionists.

Mr McGuinness believes Sinn Fein will make significant gains in the elections and will soon be the largest political party in Northern Ireland.

Is he right? Is that how the cards are stacking up as Sinn Fein target the youth vote and move further into mainstream politics?

What would such a development mean for the peace process?

Would it be a disaster for democracy or the biggest safeguard against the IRA ever returning to war?

This debate is now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.


Your reaction

Unionists find it hard enough to stomach this man and his cohorts sitting in government. How would those who contributed from Canada and the US like a senior terrorist in charge of their child's education?
Steven, Belfast, Northern Ireland


It will be a case of God help Ulster and the Protestant people

Joe Slater, Belfast
If Sinn Fein become the largest party in NI and Gerry Adams becomes first minister then it will be a case of God help Ulster and the Protestant people. It will give his Gestapo (IRA) the excuse to eliminate all opposition for good.
Joe Slater, Belfast, Northern Ireland

It is a sad condemnation of electors and elected that those who consider random killing of the public and children a legitimate route to power and influence - or who refuse to condemn it - should reach responsible public office. The example set is clear to all the children of NI. Will they choose to follow the policies of their ministers? If democracy is ever to work the peoples' choice must be respected, but will the chosen respect the people?
Jack, Warrington UK

I support Mr Adams. I believe he has the Intelligence to lead Northern Ireland into the 21st century.
P T Morriss, Los Angeles, California


Maybe we could see a DUP second minister. Stranger things have happened recently

Paul Allen, Belfast
Interesting to see how many people, UK people included, support the idea of him as first minister. I don't think it'll happen for a while, but theres a reasonable chance if there is a bit of horse trading with the unionists for other posts. Maybe we could see a DUP second minister. Stranger things have happened recently.
Paul Allen, Belfast, Northern Ireland

For years the unionists have voiced the need for democracy and the will of the greater number of people to prevail. As an Irish nationalist I agree with this, but if Adams was elected as the first minister, I hope the unionists would respect this democratic outcome. It is also clear to anyone looking at Northern Ireland from the outside who the most able politicians and intellects are...
Peter B., Toronto, Canada

The growing popularity of Sinn Fein and Gerry Adams is indicative of the inevitability that Ireland will be united one day.
Doug, Lexington, USA

In deciding who should lead Northern Ireland, we should look back to the Congress of Vienna. At that time the French were not treated like the bad guys and there was relative peace for 100 years. After World War I, the Germans were severely punished, and it led up to WW II. You figure it out.
Ben McKernan, Moses Lake, Washington, USA


Let's have no more talk about who's a terrorist and who's not

Neil, Toronto, Canada
I totally agree that Gerry Adams or any other member of Sein Fein could hold the most senior position in government, north or south. They are definitely on the road to a bigger and brighter future! Let's have no more talk about who's a terrorist and who's not.. the point is Sein Fein are democratically elected by almost half the nationalist people of the six counties.
Neil, Toronto, Canada

If Mr. Adams is not the first minister in five years time, it will be because he is Taoiseach in a reunited Ireland.
Ciaran Crowley, Cork, Ireland

Gerry Adams has been a key figure into leading Irish republicans into a political struggle rather than an armed one. He has had to overcome criticism, not only from Unionists, but from other republicans and has, in my opinion, been the main architect behind the peace process. If it wasn't for Mr. Adams and the new leadership coming to the fore of the Republican movement in the 80s the IRA and the British Army would still be at war. I don't think he'll become first minister within 10 years but with Sinn Fein's vote rising rapidly across the island you never know.
Daithi McKay, Co. Antrim, Ireland

Statements such as this that promise Sinn Fein will be the major political force in a few years time are merely a smoke-screen for the IRA. They lost their squalid little war and now they are engaged in a damage limitation exercise. Any changes that happen will happen because of democracy and the will of the Northern Ireland people. And the majority of Northern Ireland people will not accept Adams as first minister.
Stewart , Belfast


There isn't a hope that we'd let Sinn Fein into government in the Republic as long as they have a private army

Jason O'Mahony, Dublin, Ireland

There isn't a hope that we'd let Sinn Fein into government in the Republic as long as they have a private army. But then we're a relatively normal democracy, which is not something one can say about the north of Ireland.
Jason O'Mahony, Dublin, Ireland

I wonder what facts and figures Martin McGuinness based his prediction on. He did not elaborate how he was going to win over the Unionist community, nor indeed how he was going to win over Catholics who have supported moderation and peaceful means. Some of the posts on this Talking Point seem to think murdering nearly 2000 people is somehow justified. It may be worth reminding some of the Republican movement's supporters in England and the USA that the majority of Catholics, north and south, were disgusted by the Republican movement's use of violence. Sinn Fein will only be in a position to gain a First Minister mandate in the six counties once it has totally disassociated itself from its terrorist associations. Maybe a total renunciation of violence and an apology for the human suffering they have caused would be in order.
Patrick, Scotland

The first minister must be approved by Nationalists and Unionists, and Gerry Adams wouldn't get Unionist support. I still think Sinn Fein could one day have a first minister, but it won't be Gerry Adams and it won't happen within five years.
Anthony, Wexford, Ireland


If Gerry Adams has the right to stand in an election then he has the right to govern the people

Duncan Stocks, Chicago, US (UK Citizen)
For better or worse we are a democracy and if Gerry Adams has the right to stand in an election then he has the right to govern the people. I hope I never the see the day we elect a terrorist to such a position of power.
Duncan Stocks, Chicago, US (UK Citizen)

Sinn Fein will shortly be the largest party in the North of Ireland, but it will take longer than five years. Gerry Kelly is the natural successor to Gerry Adams and will be party leader. On the question of the leader of this part of Ireland having been a terrorist, do people not realise that the English have terrorised Ireland for centuries.
Jay, Amsterdam Holland

Sinn Fein have shown that they are the only party in Ireland, north or south, that knows how to tackle inequality and injustice. The idea that Gerry Adams (or whoever the Sinn Fein leader is in five years) could be first minister is to be welcomed. Even if you take away the fact that Sinn Fein has the right idea on self-determination, and righting the wrongs of British Imperialism in Ireland, they also have shown that they are the only party in Ireland, north or south, that knows how to tackle inequality and injustice. We are not used to the idea of a real socialist party in Britain anymore, so the election of Irish socialists in the north of Ireland would be a victory to be savoured by all who believe in freedom and justice.
Matthew McGregor, Sheffield, England

I would be interested to know how a man who confesses to being on the high council of a terrorist organisation has escaped custody.
Christophicus, United Kingdom

In response to Christophicus, Nelson Mandela and Yasser Arafat also confessed to being on the high council of terrorist organisations. I personally welcome the input from Sinn Fein into the Irish debate in a vocal rather than violent way. If anybody has the right to speak of oppression and injustice at the hands of the British, I think he's adequately qualified.
Bob, UK


Please do not compare Adams to statesmen such as Mandela who was fighting against oppression and for democracy

Sam, Cambridge
As a young person from Northern Ireland who hopes to return there after graduation, the thought of a Sinn Fein First Minister horrifies me. I cannot believe the views expressed above. They seem to see Sinn Fein/IRA as some sort of crusading movement campaigning for social equality. Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness are both self-confessed IRA commanders. Please do not compare Adams to statesmen such as Mandela who was fighting against oppression and for democracy.
Sam, Cambridge

Sam of Cambridge must have come from a different N.Ireland than the one I was used to. I recall plenty of repression and no democracy if you went to the wrong church.
Michael, Sydney,Australia

In reply to the chap from Cambridge. I am a South African/Irish and have knowledge of both situations. I think it is entirely reasonable to compare a republican such as Adams to Mandela. The only difference being their epoch. The ANC has always approved of Sinn Fein's stance on Social Justice and equality. There are considerable points of comparison and actually it is very helpful to make comparative examples. And I agree with Liam from London in his comment about the armed wing. Those people were 5-10 years ago among the white population now they are their leaders. Why cant the Unionist population of Ireland accept the inevitability of a united Ireland and engage with their neighbours as inhabitants of the same island.
Anand, Cambridge, England

I feel as though Gerry Adams would make a great first minister for N.Ireland. Sinn Fein and Gerry Adams always seem to be the most willing to make compromises and sacrifices in order for peace to have a chance in N.Ireland. If Sinn Fein is the largest party in N.Ireland there should be no problems with him being First Minister
Ronan O'Leary, Connecticut, USA


...The ignorance that is so typical of Americans who comment on this issue

Pete Whitehead, UK
Ronan O'Leary displays the ignorance that is so typical of Americans who comment on this issue. What 'compromises and sacrifices in order for peace' have been made by Sinn Fein exactly? Certainly the lives of hundreds of innocent people on both sides of the Irish sea have been sacrificed to the terrorist campaign for which Adams is the figurehead.
Pete Whitehead, UK

It would be an utter disgrace and a mockery of democracy if a man with so much blood on his hands were to be given such senior office.
Tom, Frankfurt, Germany

Gerry Adams is an intelligent educated and decent man. Thatcher called Mandela a terrorist. Those in government in South Africa were members of the armed wing of the ANC.. Sinn Fein will see a massive resurgence in support across Ireland due to their commitments to social justice and reform and we may well see a Sinn Fein Taoiseach. I believe he is a man of his word and one who wants an inclusive state. He has truly put his hand forward.
Liam, London, England

Does anyone seriously believe that the British state would allow that to happen? What do they have the SDLP for anyway if it isn't for reducing the socialist threat?
Neil Foster, Sheffield UK


Adams will never get unionist support

James, Belfast
Gerry Adams can never be first minister even in the unlikely event of Sinn Fein becoming the largest party. The Good Friday Agreement states that the first minister has to be approved by both nationalist and unionist parties. Adams will never get unionist support.
James, Belfast

How a man who has overseen and condoned criminal activity can become a statesman, beggar's belief. It would not be a victory for the British people and their democracy at all. Rather it would set a dangerous precedent for terrorist organisations everywhere that they can bomb their way into the heart of the British government.
Nick, London, United Kingdom

Gerry Adams would be a disaster. I much prefer Martin McGuinness.
Henry Gondorf, Sheffield

Frankly, Gerry Adams will never be Northern Ireland's first minister. There will come a time when all the people of Northern Ireland will see his generation of leaders as clinging to a violent past. If there is a Catholic/Nationalist first minister in the next few years I am sure they will come from the SDLP and not from Sinn Fein.
Will Parker, London, UK


If the IRA ceased to exist as a terrorist organisation, then I would have no objections to him being first minister

Colin, Netherlands
I don't think Gerry Adams should be a first minister as he still has IRA associations. If the IRA ceased to exist as a terrorist organisation, then I would have no objections to him being first minister.
Colin, Netherlands

If the people of Northern Ireland vote, in a free and fair election, to make Sinn Fein the largest party and Gerry Adams the first minister, then surely this is something that we have to accept, whether we like it or not. After all, isn't that what democracy is all about?
Hugh, UK

Sinn Fein were the largest party in Ireland in the 1922 election. In five years time they could be the majority in both the north and south.
Bill Nugent, Clonmel, Ireland.

All the recent election results point to a lead by the SDLP over Sinn Fein by 8-9%. The interesting thing about the interview is the absence of any mention of the SDLP. SF would like to airbrush the SDLP out of the peace process in Ireland. The SDLP's presence in Irish politics distorts the image that SF wishes the rest of the world to see: that of them, and them alone, representing the Irish people in the north of Ireland.
P Baker, Co Derry, Ireland


The next first minister may well be a Nationalist but to have a republican heading a branch of British Government is ludicrous

John, Belfast, Northern Ireland
For there talk to be of Gerry Adams becoming first minister shows how much the Unionists have given into Nationalist demands. The next first minister may well be a Nationalist but to have a republican heading a branch of British Government is ludicrous.
John, Belfast, Northern Ireland

Gerry Adams is the man best qualified to bring lasting peace to the north of Ireland. He would make an excellent first minister.
Mike, UK

If Sinn Fein does become the largest party in Northern Ireland then I see no reason why Mr Adams should not become first minister. You have to respect the will of the majority of the people of Northern Ireland.
Lee, Liverpool, UK

When are the people of Ireland (North & South) going to wake up to the fact that, if the EU leaders have their way, the whole of the British Isles are going to be subject to rule from Brussels. Those ancient arguments about Irish independence are going to become largely irrelevant. With the Republic of Ireland abandoning their national currency in 2002, what price Irish independence then? In five years time, will it matter who is first minister in the North?
Richard G, London, UK

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