20 May 2005

Washington Times

Sinn Fein: DUP must deal or be excluded

By Hannah K. Strange
UPI U.K. Correspondent

London, England, May. 19 (UPI) -- If the Democratic Unionist Party will not commit to the implementation of the Good Friday Agreement in Northern Ireland, the peace process should go forward without it, Sinn Fein Leader Gerry Adams said Thursday.

Turning the tables on DUP Leader Ian Paisley, who has repeatedly demanded Sinn Fein's exclusion from a power-sharing executive, Adams told a London news conference if the DUP did not want a deal, it would have to be excluded. Sinn Fein is the political wing of the Irish Republican Army.

Speaking before going to Downing Street for talks, Adams said there was "no possibility" of Sinn Fein being excluded from the Northern Ireland assembly.

The DUP has described the Good Friday Agreement as "fatally flawed," "undemocratic" and biased toward republicans. In the recent British elections, the party ran on an anti-agreement platform and defeated the more moderate Ulster Unionist Party by a landslide, consolidating its position as the principle voice of unionism and the largest party in Northern Ireland.

But Adams said the ascendancy of the DUP did not mean a deal could not be reached. Sinn Fein believed it wanted a deal but on its own terms, he said. However there was no way forward but on the basis of the Good Friday Agreement, he continued, and British Prime Minister Tony Blair, standing "shoulder to shoulder" with Irish Prime Minister Bertie Ahern, had to make that clear.

"The days when nationalists in the North of Ireland rolled over and lay down and tugged their forelocks are over, those days are finished," Adam said. "And we're not threatening the DUP with anything except equality. What we're saying to them (is) we want to do business with you on (Republicans) having exactly the same rights."

Paisley would have to step up to that challenge, he said, adding "We'll see the measure of the man in the times ahead."

In April, Adams called on the IRA to lay down its weapons and involve itself in the democratic process. He told the media Thursday he was confident there was an internal process of consultation going on, but that progress in the peace process should not have to wait until the paramilitary group responded. There were many principles of the Good Friday Agreement that needed to be implemented now, he said.

"We all signed up for a Bill of Rights seven years ago, we don't have a bill of rights seven years later," he said.

No one should have to wait until the IRA decommissioned, he said. They were not concessions but measures the British and Irish governments signed up to in an international treaty, he said.

"Now, will they do these things? Well, we'll see."

The parties involved could put a "whole big pile of preconditions in there and make sure it doesn't work" or "go forward sensibly, with politicians taking up their responsibilities of actually making politics work, of getting conflict resolution processes in place, of engaging in dialogue, and then deal with all these other issues as part of that, as opposed to making one issue preconditional upon another issue being resolved."

He called for the DUP to engage in dialogue with Sinn Fein -- Paisley has consistently refused to meet with Adams.

"If they are genuinely confident unionists they should be prepared to sit down and try and through dialogue sort these matters out."

He could put "a million preconditions" on the British and refuse to go to Downing Street, he said.

"We have more British troops in the north of Ireland than there are in Iraq. Get them out. Let's do things to give people some sense that 10 years into IRA cessations, that other military forces are prepared to respond to the peace imperative," Adams said.

He said he was optimistic the process could move forward in the coming months. Blair wanted to resolve the situation to leave a legacy in his final term and Sinn Fein would not be "found wanting in trying to seize that opportunity." The DUP would have to come to the table if they wanted to hold power in Northern Ireland, he said.

"If Ian Paisley wants to be the first minister, he can only be the first minister with a Sinn Fein deputy first minister," he said. "If he wants to be in power he can only be in power with other citizens having exactly the same rights of equality as those who he represents."

However speaking after talks with Blair, Paisley insisted the DUP will not share power with Sinn Fein because the party cannot be trusted.

The DUP leader told media he would not serve as first minister with a Sinn Fein deputy first minister.

"They have had their chance and they have failed," he said. "I don't trust them and the people don't trust them."

He added: "Mr. Adams said today that the IRA would never be disbanded -- so if that is his view, then that is it."

Privately the British government believes there can be no progress until the IRA respond to Adams' call. A senior Northern Ireland Office official, who requested anonymity, said Wednesday there was virtually no chance of movement without a response from the group, which they anticipated would come sometime during the summer months.

He agreed with the DUP's assessment that Sinn Fein and the IRA were "one and the same," but said this did not mean Adams had control. Adams needed to get the grassroots IRA elements on side and this would take time, he told United Press International.

Should Adams simply order the IRA to decommission, he would risk assassination, he said.

Britain was not "soft on the republicans" as unionists have alleged, he said, but the door would always remain open to them and exclusion was not an option. A settlement without Sinn Fein would simply not work, he concluded.


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