Adams Briefs Chrétien On Northern Ireland

(from CBC News, Monday, November 5, 2001)

OTTAWA - Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams was in Ottawa Monday, updating the prime minister on the progress of peace in Northern Ireland.

His visit came as Adams’ countrymen continued working to shore up the coalition government and as Canadian politicians debated proposed anti–terrorism legislation. Adams has been promoting the Canadian chapter of the Friends of Sinn Féin, a non–profit group that will raise funds in support of the Irish peace process.

Jean Chrétien described Adams as an elected leader who has renounced terrorism.

Adams, a former IRA commander who now heads the political wing of the republican movement, made it clear he doesn’t consider himself a former terrorist.

“The name terrorist is bandied about willy–nilly,” he said. “I define terrorism as the deliberate targeting of civilians. And states, governments, organizations, can and have all engaged in terrorism.”

Liberal MP Pat O’Brien, Adams’s host in Ottawa, said Canadians shouldn’t hold the Sinn Féin leader’s militant past against him.

“Canadians of Irish ancestry, like all Canadians across this country, want one thing for Ireland, and that’s a true and lasting peace,” O’Brien said.

Adams wouldn't talk about Canada's proposed anti–terrorism law except to say he wouldn't expect either Sinn Féin or the IRA to be covered by it. He pointed out that the IRA is on permament ceasefire, and is putting some of its weapons “beyond use”.

Last week, the coalition administration in Northern Ireland looked like it was on the verge of crumbling, after Ulster Unionist leader David Trimble failed to get re–elected as first minister.

But a move by the neutral Alliance Party to join the Protestant party's ranks allowed the Belfast executive to continue functioning, and cleared the way for Britain to schedule another legislative vote.

That vote has been scheduled for Tuesday.

Once seen as merely the political wing of a terrorist organization, Sinn Féin is riding a wave of goodwill after the Irish Republican Army decided last month to begin disarming.

The British government has long accused North American supporters of the Republican cause of financing terrorism.

But O’Brien said Irish–Canadians who support Sinn Féin have never supported the violence of the IRA.

“I would like to see the evidence that Canadians have given money to the IRA,” O'Brien said. “I’d love to see the evidence because I don’t think there is any,” he said.

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