Britain Must Deliver On Sinn Féin Goals: Adams

(from The Toronto Star, Saturday, November 9, 2002)

Sinn Féin leader speaks in Toronto as part of North American tour


Britain’s decision to suspend Northern Ireland’s administration for the fourth time is a mistake which has “no tactical or strategic merit,” Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams said today.

Adams, in Toronto as part of a five–day North American visit to drum up support for the peace process in Northern Ireland, said he’s sure Canadians would be outraged if another government took over the country’s political institutions.

“Imagine if someone came in from outside and said, ‘We want to give you some breathing space. We’re going to suspend your (political) institutions,’” Adams said at a news conference. “It doesn’t work like that.”

Britain suspended the powers of Northern Ireland’s Catholic–Protestant administration on Oct. 14 after the major Protestant party, the Ulster Unionists, threatened to resign.

The Unionists wanted Sinn Féin, political arm of the outlawed Irish Republican Army, to leave the coalition after one of the party’s aides was arraigned on charges of possessing stolen government documents “likely to be of use to terrorists.”

Further, British Prime Minister Tony Blair and the Unionists said the IRA should disband.

Another blow to resuming coalition rule in Northern Ireland came on Oct. 25, when the Continuity IRA, a faction opposed to the 1998 peace accord, unsuccessfully tried to set off a car bomb in a busy part of Belfast.

Adams said Saturday that Continuity IRA has “made no contribution to the peace process ... They have no popular support.”

It’s futile to hold talks with the dissident organization, he added, because “they would see us as having sold out.”

Adams said Sinn Féin wants a “democratic” end to the peace process, involving all sides and levels of government.

“There’s no other way forward except through dialogue,” Adams said.

He said Britain must deliver on key Sinn Féin goals, which include wholesale British army withdrawals from the Northern Ireland border and an end to police surveillance of Sinn Féin and IRA activists.

Adams said he also envisions an end to the IRA’s existence but cautioned that ultimatums will not make that a reality.

“Will the IRA go away because the Unionists demand it? No. The reality is that human nature and politics doesn’t work like that.”

The IRA has been largely observing a July 1997 ceasefire that means it no longer regularly shoots police officers or soldiers or sets off car bombs. It has also disposed of a few weapons dumps in co–operation with disarmament chiefs since October 2001.

But police accuse the underground group of restocking its considerable arsenal, gathering intelligence for a potential full–blooded revival of attacks, stoking Belfast riots, killing drug dealers and breaking the limbs of other criminal rivals in Catholic areas and training rebels in faraway Colombia.

On Saturday, Adams also commended Canadians, including several who have sat on various inquiry boards and commissions dealing with issues such as the 1998 Good Friday peace agreement and the Bloody Sunday massacre in 1972.

“Canadians have played a good and positive role in our peace process and I thank them for that,” he said.