DERRY — Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams on Wednesday urged the Irish Republican Army (IRA) to accept peace and give its total support to democratic politics in Northern Ireland.
In what is being described as either a landmark speech or as unconcealed electioneering in the run-up to the 5 May general elections in Britain, Adams said the “struggle had reached a defining moment.”
He appealed directly to the IRA leadership to become activists in a movement to rebuild the struggling Northern Ireland peace process and push for a single all-Ireland state.
“The way forward is by building political support for republican and democratic objectives across Ireland and winning support for those objectives internationally,” Adams said.
Sinn Féin is seen as the political wing of the IRA. Many observers believe that Adams and Sinn Féin chief negotiator Martin McGuinness are members of the IRA leadership.
Irish Justice Minister Michael McDowell publicly stated that he believed that Adams and McGuinness, who are both elected parliamentarians, are part of the IRA Army Council.
Sinn Féin has been under severe political pressure since the IRA’s alleged theft of €33 million from a Belfast bank last December. More recently, the admission by the IRA that three of its members took part in the now-notorious murder of Robert McCartney in Belfast has added to the clamor for the organization to disband.
Adams was snubbed by US President George Bush and several prominent Irish-American Senators during a visit to the US for St. Patrick’s Day.
By contrast, McCartney’s sisters, who are now taking their campaign for justice to Brussels, were feted by Bush and Hillary Rodham Clinton as they traveled to the US for the Irish national holiday.
With a general election looming, Adams’ statement was intended to show Sinn Féin’s reaction to recent events, and to forestall any loss of support from Northern Ireland’s Catholic Irish or nationalist voters to the rival Social, Democratic, and Labour Party (SDLP).
Sinn Féin was expected to take up to 70 per cent of the nationalist vote in any election, prior to the emergence of the recent public relations disasters involving the IRA.
Reaction to Adams’ speech was mixed.
The British government described the statement as “significant and welcome”, while the Irish prime minister described it as “having potential”, but said it could ultimately only be judged on the basis of the IRA’s actions.
Democratic Unionist Party leader Ian Paisley described that statement as “just another stunt promoting himself [Adams)] as a democrat.”
Northern Ireland’s three decades of civil conflict up to 1998 saw over 3,600 people killed, most of them civilians, as mostly Catholic Irish nationalists and republican paramilitaries, who want Northern Ireland to merge with the Republic of Ireland to the south, faced off against mostly Protestant unionists or loyalist counterparts who want to remain part of the United Kingdom. British soldiers flooded into Northern Ireland but were viewed by many nationalists as a hostile occupation force and were regularly targeted by the IRA, as were the police.Show