DERRY- The Irish Republican Army (IRA) on Thursday said it was considering Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams’ request to give up the armed struggle and adopt a peaceful, democratic political campaign to end British rule in Northern Ireland.
The paramilitary organization said it was giving “due consideration” to Adams’ request, adding that a definitive response would be given “in due course”.
The leader of Sinn Féin, the political party linked to the IRA, welcomed the paramilitary group’s pledge to address his appeal, and responded to critics of the speech, saying that it was “a genuine attempt to drive the peace process forward”.
While some welcomed Adams’ statement as significant, others said it was a disingenuous campaign ploy.
The IRA waged a violent campaign against British rule in Northern Ireland from 1969 until 1998, when the Good Friday peace agreement was signed. Since then, Sinn Féin has seen its electoral support increase substantially in both Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic.
Adams’ short speech on Wednesday was directed at the IRA leadership – which many believe he is also a member of. Adams denies the allegation.
Reaction to the statement varied from cautious enthusiasm from the British and Irish governments and the Catholic Church, to cynicism and hostility from Unionist political parties. The Bush administration on Thursday also applauded Adams’ statement.
With Britain’s general election planned for 5 May, some saw the speech as a ploy to revitalize Sinn Féin’s public profile, which has suffered considerably after the IRA’s alleged involvement in the theft of €33 million from a bank in December and the murder of Robert McCartney in Belfast earlier this year.
Analysts believe that Adams would not have made the speech without prior knowledge that the IRA would respond positively. They have also noted Sinn Féin’s ability to deliver IRA concessions, or an apparent commitment to make concessions, at politically opportune moments.
Others say that the speech is significant as an admission by Sinn Féin that the IRA must disband for the peace process to restart and its electoral fortunes to improve. But they also concede that Sinn Féin had already committed itself to disarming all paramilitary organizations when it signed the Good Friday peace agreement.Show