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Punters surprise that Gerry Adams once worked as barman at Duke of York

In the late 1960s a 17-year-old Adams served behind the bar at the Duke of York pub in the city centre. Picture by Ann McManus

BEFORE Gerry Adams became one of the foremost figures in Irish republicanism he was pulling pints at one of Belfast’s best known bars.

In the late 1960s, a 17-year-old Adams worked for a time as a barman in the Duke of York pub which was back then a haunt for journalists and lawyers trading the political gossip of the day.

Few customers at bar in Donegall Street yesterday however appeared to know that he had once stood behind the counter pulling pints.

Carol Stewart said, while she was watching events closely, the fact he had been a bartender came as a surprise to her.

But she said she believed the party was doing the right thing moving forwards without him and "possibly putting a woman in charge. It’s the end of an era."

Another customer, William White, was also surprised to learn that Mr Adams once worked in the city centre pub.

But he said the question for him was whether retirement would really mean he was stepping away from the political stage.

"I guess the question is, how retired will he actually be? We’ve seen before he likes to be involved and he’s still going to be there in the background," he said.

Darren McAuley was equally surprised to learn that Mr Adams was at one time a barman in the pub he where he was enjoying a pint.

He said many people could not see beyond his past defence of the IRA and said changing leadership would "broaden Sinn Fein’s appeal."

For one patron however the news came as no surprise.

Former IRA hunger striker-turned author Laurence McKeown was enjoying a pint on his return to Belfast from the Sinn Fein ard fheis in Dublin.

Reflecting on events he said: "It was a very emotional occasion and you could definitely feel it in the room," he said.

"But he will still be around, of course. I think the retirement, as it were, is more of a formality.

"He has been a forefront of the party for the guts of 40 years, so he won’t be simply leaving it all behind."

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