HISTORIC ADDRESS BY ADAMS FUELS PEACE EFFORTS
The controversy over the "clarity" and "certainty"
of an IRA
statement issued before Easter has continued this week despite a
hugely significant intervention by Sinn Fein President Gerry
Adams and the start of the election campaign to the Belfast
Assembly on May 29.
In a speech on Sunday, Mr Adams publicly accounted for the
republican position, and said a move to restore the Assembly at
Stormont remained possible.
More than thirty Sinn Fein representatives from both the Stormont
Assembly and the Dublin parliament were present to hear Mr Adams
reveal how far the IRA was now prepared to go to secure closure
in the peace process.
However, the British Prime Minister continues to insist that the
IRA must use a form of words approved by his government and the
Ulster Unionist Party to bring the conflict to a close.
Meanwhile, there is still no sign of the Joint Declaration by the
Irish and British governments on the implementation of the 1998
Good Friday Agreement and, incredibly, Mr Blair has failed to
confirm that he will not attempt to introduce a new law to
postpone next month's Assembly elections for a second time.
It was in these circumstances that Mr Adams told the Sinn Fein
representatives and the assembled media that the recent IRA
statement passed to the British and Irish governments was one of
the strongest in the republican group's history.
He said the IRA was "unequivocal" in its resolve for "a
and final closure of the conflict".
"It contains a number of highly significant and positive elements
unparalleled in any previous statement by the IRA leadership,
either in this or any previous phase of their struggle," Mr Adams
said. "Such an IRA statement and such a response to it would have
been unimaginable 10 or even five years ago."
He said the two governments had publicly recognised the many
positive aspects of the IRA statement, the obvious progress and,
crucially, the British and Irish governments said that the
statement shows a clear desire to make the peace process work.
Mr Adams addressed the questions publicly raised by Mr Blair last
The Sinn Fein President answered the first question, on possible
future IRA "paramilitary" activities, by saying: "The IRA
statement is a statement of completely peaceful intent. Its logic
is that there should be no activities inconsistent with this.
On the second question of its arms, Mr Adams significantly
confirmed that the IRA was prepared to take part in a process to
put all arms beyond use.
"Secondly the IRA has stated its willingness to proceed with the
implementation of a process to put arms beyond use at the
earliest opportunity," he said. "Obviously this is not about
putting some arms beyond use. It is about all arms.
On the third question, calling for the IRA to agree an end to the
conflict following the implementation of the Good Friday
Agreement, Mr Adams said:
"And thirdly, if the two governments and all the parties fulfill
their commitments this will provide the basis for the complete
and final closure of the conflict."
Mr Adams contrasted the movement of the IRA with the unchanged
position of the Ulster Unionists, unionist paramilitaries and and
their supporters in the British securocrats.
He pointed out that, in contrast to the IRA position, there was
"no certainty about the UUP's position or its intentions in
respect of the stability of the political institutions, a
timeframe for the transfer of powers on policing and criminal
justice, or the establishment of the north/south
"There is no certainty from the unionist paramilitaries," he
added. "There is no certainty about the positions or the
intentions of British securocrats."
He also objected to plans for the introduction of sanctions
against parties found to be in breach of the agreement, pointing
out that this was aimed at "Sinn Fein and its electorate".
IRA ARMS PLAN REVEALED
The Sinn Fein President also disclosed that the leadership of the
IRA had authorised a third act of decommissioning in tandem with
a public commitment from the Ulster Unionist Party backing the
restoration of the local power-sharing institutions in the North
Significantly, the IRA was prepared to do this despite the new
political institutions remaining suspended, and the Good Friday
Agreement largely on ice.
"Mr Trimble was to respond to this [arms initiative] with a
public commitment that he would recommend to his party that they
actively support the sustained working of the political
institutions and other elements of the Good Friday agreement,"
said Mr Adams.
"The IRA leadership was then prepared to act in advance of the
UUC meeting and in the context of suspended institutions.
"My understanding is that all of this is still do-able at this
time if there is a positive response from the two governments and
Describing the IRA ceasefire as "the main anchor for the peace
process", Mr Adams said the way forward was clear.
"The joint declaration and all other statements should be
published. It is as simple as that. The commitments contained in
all the statements, including the IRA statement, should be
implemented in full," he said.
"We have to work together to move this process forward. That is
the challenge for all of us, for Sinn Fein for the two
governments and critically, for the leadership of the UUP. That
is the way to achieve a permanent peace."
SPEECH WELCOMED, POCKETED
Despite receiving a warm welcome from the two governments, the
response has been intangible and their have been demands for
"We think we are close to a solution," said a spokeswoman for
Taoiseach. "We welcome Gerry Adams's statement. We believe it
represents a significant political advance," said Mr Blair's
Spkespeople for the two governments were unhappy that Mr Adams
did not say that the IRA would call "a complete and total end"
all its activities.
At a press conference on Monday, Mr Blair declared himself
satisfied that the IRA intended to put all weapons beyond use,
and that it was the full implementation of the Good Friday
Agreement rather than a united Ireland which would spell the end
of the conflict.
However, the third issue had not yet been resolved and remained
absolutely crucial, he said. Referring to heavily publicised
allegations of continuing IRA activity, he said: "Is there going
to be an end to all the paramilitary activity of the sort that
gave rise to the very problems we have? Is there going to be a
complete and total end to all that paramilitary activity? That is
what we need to know from the heart of the IRA because if they
are going to carry on with that type of activity, then there is
no basis for progress."
The IRA should clarify whether it plans to end all paramilitary
activity, the Taoiseach said yesterday.
The Irish Prime Minister, Taoiseach Bertie Ahern has said said
that the deadlock in the peace process was within a "whisker"
resolution -- and called on the IRA to state thaty it would cease
a range of alleged and/or disputed activities.
Mr Ahern described Sunday's speech by Sinn Fein president Gerry
Adams as a "hugely significant advance".
The speech had brought the process to the point where the Irish
and British governments wanted to be two weeks ago, he said. It
had answered two of the three questions which remained after the
IRA statement issued privately to the two governments.
Mr Ahern said: "Does the IRA intend to put all arms beyond use? I
think there's no doubt about that. We have moved substantially
from where we were in the May 2000 statement. Does the IRA's
position mean an end to the conflict? We're happy with that, the
Irish Government are happy with that position."
He said he was aware of "constraints" within Sinn Fein
surrounding the third commitment - to end all paramilitary
operations. Several such high-profile incidents had led to the
current breakdown, he said. While he believed it must be possible
to provide such a commitment, he was "not saying that everyone's
trying to do it".
Mr Ahern asked: "Does the IRA intend to end all its activities
including targeting, intelligence-gathering, punishment beatings,
military training, arms procurement? We set that out in November.
We're not yet satisfied on that question."
NOT ENOUGH FOR 'NO' MEN
The Ulster Unionist Party said the Sinn Fein President's speech
was a "disappointment".
"Republicans built up this statement as something which has the
capacity to unlock the deadlock.
"In the end it failed to live up to its billing. Having seen the
details, it falls short of what is required.
"The response to the three questions posed by the Prime Minister
are no further forward. This statement does not provide any basis
under which suspension can be lifted."
Ulster Unionist leader David Trimble said that any "precondition"
on a third IRA move to put arms beyond use was "unacceptable".
"At every stage in this process, it has been the Ulster Unionist
Party that has had to drag republicans towards a totally
democratic future," he insisted, as his party launched its
The anti-agreement Ulster Unionist MP Jeffrey Donaldson accused
Mr Adams and Sinn Fein of "playing with words".
"This has more to do with gestures and choreography than with
republicans making a clear and unequivocal commitment to
exclusively peaceful and democratic means," the Lagan Valley MP
"Unionists have been very clear that what is needed is total
disarmament and the disbandment of the IRA. This statement by
Gerry Adams does not convey that."
DUP deputy leader Peter Robinson said that it was clear from Mr
Adams's comments that republicans "were not interested" in
delivering the so-called "acts of completion". Party colleague
Ian Paisley jnr said the speech was a further "nail in the
coffin" of the Good Friday Agreement.
Despite Tony Blair and other British officials accepting that the
elections to the Belfast Assembly are "fixed in law" for May
29th, and with the election campaign well underway, there remains
considerable uncertainty that the British government will allow
them to proceed. As reqauired by law, the Assembly has been
formally dissoved and the election campaigns have formally begun.
The British government is understood to be still concerned that
Sinn Fein and the hardline unionist DUP could do well in the
elections, possibly securing the posts of the First and Deputy
First Ministers in any new Executive.
Most observers believe the election campaign will proceed on the
basis that British officials believe there will never be a better
time to produce the desired result -- the status quo of an SDLP
Deputy First Minister and a UUP First Minister.
An expected government-supported attempt to marginalise Sinn
Fein's vote over the allegations of continuing IRA activity would
also bolster the UUP vote by allowing it to portray itself as the
party which was successfully demanding an end to the IRA through
its boycotts and ulimatums.
However, they are concerned that nationalists may have seen
through the strategy -- in particular, the raid on Sinn Fein
offices at Stormont over the the alleged "IRA spy ring" was
widely seen as having backfired. In addition, the failure to
prove any of the claims over the past year has lessened the
impact of the high-profile allegations.
On the unionist side, Ian Paisley's party is seen as unlikely to
upset the current balance in the Assembly, where the UUP is the
largest party but includes several Anti-Agreement Assembly
Nominations for the 108 Assembly seats are due to close on May 6,
but the failure to emerge with a clear cut decision about the
election has become increasingly absurd.
All parties have assumeed the election is going ahead. At
considerable expense, campaign literature and posters have
already been printed up. The Ulster Unionists have already
launched their election broadcast, the SDLP broadcast was being
unveiled today, while Sinn Fein will deliver their broadcast
later this week.
A decision to postpone assembly elections for a second time would
be tantamount to calling a halt to the Belfast Agreement, Sinn
Fein's Mr Martin McGuinness said today [Tuesday], as the issue
was being discussed between British and Irish officials.
The Mid Ulster MP saidrepublicans had stretched themselves "to
the limit" in trying to make the peace process work and believed
the elections should go ahead on May 29th.
"If the British Government were to postpone these elections it
would be very damaging for the democratic process," the former
Six-County Education Minister said.
"It would send a very clear message that rejectionist unionists
are having their way. It would be tantamount to the British
Government calling a halt to the Good Friday Agreement".
He said he had told the two governments that the election was "a
TRIMBLE BEGINS CAMPAIGN
Meanwhile, a declaration today by Ulster Unionist leader David
that his party would not support the election of a first or
deputy first minister without further moves from the IRA was seen
as a possible confirmation of a hardline anti-IRA strategy for
the forthcoming elections.
While acknowledging there has been some movement by the IRA, Mr
Trimble insisted that unionists were not interested in a "fudge".
"It is appropriate that we take stock of what progress has been
made," Mr Trimble said.
"Since 1996 there has been very substantial movement. No longer
is the IRA saying 'not a bullet not an ounce'. Sinn Fein is no
longer saying 'no return to Stormont'.
"We have proved that devolution can work and unionists are
prepared to share power with all those who are committed to
"The final hurdle is the removal from the scene of the
Although he has previously insisted that the IRA and Sinn Fein
are one and the same, Mr Trimble said only an IRA statement would
satisfy unspecified demands on "genuine acts of completion".
Mr Trimble maintained that on the basis of what the UUP had heard
so far, there was no basis for the lifting of the assembly
suspension or for his party to return to the Stormont
"We have got the republican movement nearly to the finishing line
and we are going to drag them over it. The political institutions
will not come back until that has happened," Mr Trimble said.
Speaking after Trimble's latest comments, Mr Adams said that Mr
Blair was absolutely clear about the IRA's position but his real
problem was with the intention of Ulster Unionists.
"Mr Trimble at this time isn't satisfied to go into the
institutions. He doesn't want an election and is now making it
clear that even after the elections he will not be involved in
nominating UUP people to any new executive," he said.
Mr Adams accused the prime minister of indulging in a game of
Scrabble over his speech about the end of the IRA's activities.
"I am told he zeroed in on me using the word 'should'. He said I
should have used the words 'will be'. I actually used those
words. I said the IRA leadership has stated its determination to
ensure that its activities will be consistent with its resolve to
see the complete and final closure of the conflict," Mr Adams
MI5 WAR 'NOT OVER'
In an election rally at a republican ex-prisoners club in west
Belfast, Mr Adams pointed out that members of the British
military establishment are still engaged in a war against
He said: "For the spooks and the spies at MI5 and all the rest of
them, their war is not over.
"What their war is about is defeating people like you," the
Fein president told the rally. The focus of those calling for
more movement from the IRA was about preventing change, he said.
"It is obvious that change has been delayed, that change is being
held back," he went on.
"But for as long as people in this room and people throughout the
island and our friends internationally are committed to being
agents of change, then that's all they can do."
Mr Adams last night insisted that a deal was still achievable,
based on the IRA statement which was delivered to the two
"The British government has an IRA statement which the vast
majority of IRA volunteers haven't seen. So they (IRA members)
have a justifiable right to be indignant. For the rest of us that
is a luxury," he said.
The British government's inability to move forward was not based
on its need to be sure of the IRA.
"Tony Blair knows what republicans have contributed to this
process," he said.
"The problem lies with the inability of the British government to
bring about change. He (Mr Blair) cannot forever be in hock to