19 May 2005

AP Wire

Adams hopes IRA abandons armed struggle

Associated Press
Posted on Thu, May. 19, 2005

LONDON - Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams said Thursday he remains hopeful that the Irish Republican Army will abandon its armed struggle, clearing the way for the power-sharing administration that was the goal of a peace accord signed seven years ago.

"There is an alternative way forward," Adams told The Associated Press before meeting with Prime Minister Tony Blair. "Whatever justification there was for armed actions in the past ... the existence of an alternative now means that everyone should embrace that, should embrace democratic and political means of struggle."

Blair met Northern Ireland's hard-line Protestant and Catholic leaders separately - the first such meetings since the May 5 general election - in the hope of reviving a stalled power-sharing agreement.

Adams said he would call on Blair to "make it very, very clear there is no way forward except the (U.S.-brokered 1998) Good Friday agreement."

But Ian Paisley of the Democratic Unionists, speaking as he left Blair's Downing Street office following an hour-long meeting, said he did not believe the IRA would ever change. Sinn Fein leaders should be excluded from power because they "cling to violence," Paisley said, declaring the Good Friday accord dead.

"I think it should be given a reasonable burial. It has failed," said Paisley, 79.

Sinn Fein, the IRA-linked party, and the Democratic Unionists, who represent most of Northern Ireland's British Protestant majority, trounced their moderate rivals in elections earlier this month.

Their dominant positions make them essential in any future power-sharing administration, the central goal of the Good Friday accord. But the Democratic Unionists refuse to cooperate with Sinn Fein until the IRA disarms and disbands, a position backed by the British, Irish and American governments.

Adams, 56, a reputed IRA commander for the past three decades, appealed officially to IRA members last month to abandon what he called their "armed struggle."

The seven-man IRA command - which, according to the Irish government, includes Adams and Sinn Fein colleagues Martin McGuinness and Martin Ferris - has yet to respond.

Adams, who denies ever being a member of the IRA, said Thursday there was "no time scale" for a response.

"That is a matter for that organization," he said. "I have set out my position. I am not going to move from it. It is my hope that Republicans right across the island and elsewhere will embrace that position."

The IRA was supposed to have disarmed fully by mid-2000 under terms of the 1998 pact but did not start the process until October 2001 and insisted that any weapons handovers be kept private and vague. That policy fueled Protestant support for Paisley, whose party rejected the 1998 deal as too generous to the Sinn Fein-IRA movement.

So far, power-sharing has proved impossible to sustain. A four-party coalition led by moderates governed the British territory in sporadic bursts from December 1999 to October 2002, but it suffered repeated breakdowns because of the IRA's refusal to start disarming.

It collapsed after police accused Sinn Fein activists of gathering intelligence on potential IRA targets.

The IRA has observed a cease-fire since 1997, but police say the group remains active of some fronts, particularly crime. In particular, the group has been widely blamed for a world-record Belfast bank robbery in December.

Reading between the lines of Adams' comments , it seems that he and his are of the opinion that some degree of an increase in the level of 'civil rights' for the Republican population will 'solve' the issue . His 'nationalist' supporters would no doubt accept that that is the case , but Irish Republicans are of the opinion that it is about more than 'civil rights' . It is about the continuing , illegal , claim of jurisdiction over six of our counties by Westminster . An issue which the Stormont Treaty will not resolve .
Like Collins , de Valera and MacGiolla / de Rossa , Adams will retire , rich and comfortable , to the sidelines . And the sooner the better .

Sharon .
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