ADAMS GESTURE ON IRA REBUFFED
Sinn Fein's Gerry Adams has told republicans they need to be
prepared to remove the IRA and the issue of weapons as an excuse
for unionists to block political progress.
However, despite heralding a potentially historic concession to
their demands, unionists have criticised Mr Adams's remarks
and have insisted on immediate IRA disbandment.
In an interview with the BBC, Mr Adams said the IRA might stand
aside as part of an ongoing process of sustainable change,
adding that the absence of such circumstances would create
"I personally feel that while there are justifiable fears within
unionism about the IRA and while people have concerns about the
IRA, I think political unionism uses the IRA and the issue of
IRA arms as a excuse," he said.
"I think that republicans need to be prepared to remove that as
Mr Adams made a similar statement last year, in the context of
an abortive deal to implement elements of the troubled 1998 Good
But by repeating the statement in very explicit terms in advance of
critical negotiations next month, Mr Adams has surprised both
his own supporters and his critics.
Unionists, meanwhile, pounced on the remarks and demanded more.
DUP assembly member Ian Paisley junior said "action, not words
"Statements of this sort from Gerry Adams have become a regular
occurrence," he said.
"Sadly they are rarely backed up with the necessary action from
"Mr Adams and the IRA need to come to terms with the fact that
unionism will not accept anything less than serious, substantial
and conclusive action from the IRA."
Mr Adams today expressed "disappointment at the strident and
belligerent criticism" of his remarks.
He said it reinforced his concern that political unionism is
using the issue of the IRA and of IRA weapons as an excuse to
obstruct progress in the peace process.
"I set out a context, involving the two governments and other
parties, including Sinn Fein, which could empower the Sinn Fein
leadership to persuade republicans to remove that excuse. Is
that not also a desirable goal for the unionist parties? Are
unionists so afraid of change that they would prefer to see
armed groups and political instability continue?
"If the answer to this is no, that they do want to see an end to
armed groups, and they do want to see political stability, do
they have any sense of their responsibility and role in bringing
Intensive negotiations are set to take place in September in an
attempt to get devolution restored in the North.
Talks have been taking place in advance of the negotiations,
while gestures such as the appearance of DUP negotiator Jeffrey
Donaldson at a meeting in republican west Belfast have been to
be fuelling badly-needed good will into the process.
However, senior Ulster Unionist Reg Empey described Mr Adams'
remarks as only an attempt to raise the stakes ahead of next
"They are not going to go away easily or cheaply," he said.
"They will try to maximise the amount of pressure they can bring
to bear because once they lose the paramilitary wing then they
are relying exclusively on their electoral mandate."
Mr Adams said many people, including unionists, would have been
left "depressed and despondent" by such a unionist response.
He said his party still wanted see "a holistic, definitive and
conclusive closure" to all of the outstanding issues.
"For that goal to be achieved would require the DUP to face up
to the challenge of talking to and sharing power with Sinn Fein
and resolving matters as diverse as policing, human rights,
equality and sectarianism.
"Are they up to it? I don't know. For our part, Sinn Fein will
not shy away from the DUP. We want to make peace with unionism.
This means agreeing measures within the terms of the Good Friday
Agreement to bring all outstanding issues to definitive and
"Many nationalists are justifiably sceptical about the DUP's
willingness or ability to face up to these issues, and today a
number of people have said to me that Ian Paisley Jnr's remarks
is proof of that."
An agreement in the talks next month will require a dramatic
shift in the relationsship between Ian Paisley's DUP and Mr
Adams's party. However, the Sinn Fein President has said there
may be too much focus on the parties capacity to reach deal.
"In the first instance however it requires the two governments,
as the principle guarantors of the Agreement and as those
participants with the greatest power and influence, to exercise
that power positively and dynamically and to deliver on their
commitments. This is especially true of the British government."
This could create a new "positive and liberating" political
context for republicans and the DUP in which substantial
progress could be made.
"However this means Tony Blair facing down the securocrats
within the NIO and the British system who have worked diligently
to subvert the Agreement. Is the British government up to that