By Andrew Bushe
DUBLIN — A united Ireland will be a reality, or close to it, in 15 years, Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams has predicted.
In an interview with the British domestic news agency the Press Association, Adams said he was confident about the future of Northern Ireland despite frustration over the slow pace of the peace process.
But he insisted the IRA will not give up weapons by March 10, the deadline set by London for the formation of a power-sharing government in Belfast.
Adams insisted his party was sincere on disarmament, and blamed the lack of progress on implementing the peace agreement on Unionist leader and First Minister designate David Trimble.
"I’m convinced we will be into, or moving into, a united Ireland situation," he answered when asked to predict the status of Northern Ireland 15 years from now.
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"The economic and social logic of it on an island this size is compelling," he said. "A united Ireland should not be seen as threatening. What form it takes is up to the people."
He urged British Prime Minister Tony Blair not to surrender to a "Unionist veto," saying to do so would be a huge setback for the peace process.
"Does David Trimble really expect by March 10 the IRA are going to do what he wants? He must know the IRA aren’t going to do that," Adams added.
He said he could not predict what progress might be made on decommissioning by the May 2000 deadline, but said Sinn Fein was serious about achieving the goal.
Adams said Trimble’s difficulties were actually "within his own head" and he should now work with Sinn Fein and other parties.
"We’re on the same side now," he said. "This isn’t Unionist versus Nationalist anymore; this is those who are for and who are against the agreement."