Gerry Adams

updated 12/26/1994 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 12/26/1994 AT 01:00 AM EST

After generations of tragically romanticized struggle, from the battlefields of the Boyne "to the bloody cobblestones of Dublin and Belfast, peace may finally fall on Ireland. If so, considerable credit must go to Gerry Adams, 46, reputedly a former Irish Republican Army chief of staff who, since 1983, has served as president of Sinn Fein, the IRA's political wing. Announcing, "I want to take the gun out of Irish politics," Adams last August persuaded the IRA to declare a unilateral cease-fire in Northern Ireland and seek a permanent truce in the war between Catholics and Protestants that has left 3,171 dead and 30,000 wounded since 1969.

Adams would seem an unlikely proselytizer for peace. "As the Republican movement's most visible leader," declared Britain's Guardian, "all the IRA's worst atrocities inevitably land at his door." Indeed, his professorial beard, hounds-tooth tweeds and lofty locutions notwithstanding, Adams has battled for the Republican cause since 1966. He has spent 4½ years in the notorious Long Kesh prison, been shot in his native Belfast by Protestant paramilitaries, been barred from British soil until last year—and lives apart from his wife, Colette, and their son Gearoid, 20, for the sake of their safety. But after engineering the ceasefire and traveling three times to the U.S. to plead his cause, Adams has gained sufficient legitimacy to force war-weary Belfast and London to deal with him. "I don't want to minimize the problems," he says. "But I see no reason why, in 10 years, we can't have an Irish democracy, of whatever shape the Irish people want."

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