Sinn Féin’s outgoing president, Gerry Adams, has labelled Brexit a “disaster” for the island of Ireland.
Adams called for Northern Ireland to be granted special status to allow the region to remain within the customs union and single market after the UK leaves the EU.
Adams, who is stepping down as Sinn Féin leader next weekend, said the British government “arguing that they’re going to leave the customs union and they’re going to leave the single market … will end up a complete disaster for people here on the island of Ireland”.
He told The Andrew Marr Show on BBC One that it was “doable” to grant Northern Ireland special designated status as the region had voted 56% in favour of staying inside the EU in the 2016 referendum.
Adams’s focus on Brexit and the EU is part of a strategic shift in Sinn Féin policy towards Europe.
In the 2000s the party campaigned against the Lisbon treaty and further EU expansion. It also argued for Ireland to leave the EU in the 1970s and 80s when Adams rose to hold the centre of power inside Sinn Féin.
The former West Belfast MP also praised Jeremy Corbyn and said he hoped the Labour leader would become the next British prime minister.
“I would like to see Jeremy in that position for the benefit of people in Britain, leaving Ireland out of it. I think Jeremy is an outstanding politician and I hope my endorsement of him is not used against him in the time ahead,” Adams said.
Asked about the IRA, whose armed campaign during the Northern Ireland Troubles Adams defended for decades, he said: “I would wish that no one had been killed or injured in the course of the conflict.”
For decades Adams has also denied allegations from former comrades that he was a senior IRA commander and member of its ruling body, the army council.
Having led Sinn Féin since 1983, Adams will hand over power to the Dublin-born Irish MP Mary Lou McDonald at a special delegate conference next Saturday.
However, experts on Irish republicanism claim Adams will continue to exercise major influence over the party’s leadership and direction particularly as many of the Sinn Féin backroom staff are fiercely loyal to him.