SINN Féin’s Gerry Adams put his outstanding election success at the weekend down to the performance of the team who helped make the dream become a reality.
The party president said that while he and the party endured a difficult campaign, he believed it brought them together to work even harder.
After topping the poll with 15,072 first preference votes, Mr Adams said: “I think it’s down to the team. They were obviously highly motivated because they saw that some of our opponents were trying to get us into the gutter with them but as a famous man once said, ‘We may be all in the gutter but some of us are looking at the stars’.
“I could show you a thousand families who could take issue with Irish governments but I tried to stay away from that. I respect peoples’ rights to protest but I don’t buy into the stuff about us being economically illiterate, particularly when it’s coming from the people who bankrupted the state.
“You just try not to take these things personally, you just get on with the job and play your own game and we played our own game.”
The Belfast native said the abuse was expected but expressed his belief that it ended up being “counter-productive” in the end – pointing out that it had left many people with Northern Irish backgrounds here feeling “uncomfortable”.
“We had a highly motivated team from day one and when I spoke at Edentobber I said we can expect a tsunami of vilification and personal abuse but I don’t want to dwell too much on that. It obviously had a counter-productive effect though.
“The wonderful thing about elections is that sometimes politicians can live in bubbles and sometimes some media types live in bubbles as well. I’m not talking about the old fashioned hacks who report the stores but these opinionated columnists. Sometimes they live in a bubble but people live in the real world and they make their own judgements on the basis of your record.”
Asked what he put the victory down to, Adams said: “I just think people want change. That sounds like a mantra but they’ve invested this big vote in me and people like me and that’s a big responsibility but it’s a responsibility I take very seriously.
“I think it’s a great honour to represent Sinn Féin and a huge honour to represent your peers. I didn’t realise the impact of the peace process until people started stopping me in the street in areas I wasn’t familiar with.”
The party president, now set to become a deputy, said he hoped this was the beginning of bigger and brighter things for both him and the party.
“It’s certainly a big day in my life. This is a big step in my life and the life of my family but it’s also a big step I hope for Sinn Féin and our ability to impact on the policy agenda here and across the island,” he said.