After four decades fighting the British crown, Irish republican leader Gerry Adams has been given a job working for Queen Elizabeth II, forced by rules that allow him no other way to quit his seat in the U.K. Parliament.
Adams wants to leave in order to stand for the Irish Parliament in an election likely within weeks. British Parliamentary rules dating back to the 17th century forbid lawmakers from resigning, and the only mechanism for quitting is to take up an “office for profit under the Crown.” Prime Minister David Cameron announced to laughter in Parliament today that Adams would be appointed “Crown Steward and Bailiff of the Manor of Northstead.”
Adams, who was jailed for republican activities in Northern Ireland in 1972, had until today held the district of West Belfast in Parliament for Sinn Fein, the party linked to the Irish Republican Army terrorist group. Sinn Fein members don’t take their seats in Parliament because they won’t swear an oath of loyalty to the crown. Adams denies ever belonging to the IRA.
“Mr. Cameron’s announcement that I have become Crown Steward and Bailiff of the Manor of Northstead, wherever that is, is a bizarre development,” Adams said in an e-mailed statement later. “I simply resigned. I was not consulted nor was I asked to accept such an office. I am an Irish republican. I have had no truck whatsoever with these antiquated and quite bizarre aspects of the British parliamentary system.”
Adams said that Cameron’s private secretary had subsequently apologized to him for the prime minister’s remarks after he called requesting an explanation. Cameron’s office didn’t immediately respond to a phone call requesting confirmation of that.
Adams became president of Sinn Fein in 1983 and three years later the party split when he advocated accepting seats in the Irish parliament in Dublin, known as the Dail. Sinn Fein had previously refused to accept the Dail’s legitimacy. Martin McGuinness, now Northern Ireland’s deputy first minister, sided with Adams.
In 1994 the IRA, urged by Adams and Sinn Fein, announced a ceasefire. In 1998 a peace deal supported by the U.K. and Irish governments largely ended three decades of violence that claimed more than 3,500 lives.
Sinn Fein now rejects violence. In 2005 the IRA decommissioned its weapons and said it would work toward its goal of a united Ireland peacefully.