Category: Archive

Adams says agreement is ‘in tatters’

February 16, 2011

By Staff Reporter

By Chris Thornton

BELFAST — The prospect of a renewed settlement in Northern Ireland appears to be months or years away after Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams told his party that the Good Friday agreement was left "in tatters" by Britain’s decision to suspend the Assembly.

Adams became the first pro-agreement politician to talk openly about the demise of the 1998 accord, which opened up a brief period of power-sharing self-government in

the North. That ended in February when British Northern Ireland Secretary of State Peter Mandelson withdrew powers from Belfast after first minister and Unionist leader David Trimble threatened to resign over the IRA’s refusal to disarm.

During a special party convention in Dublin last Sunday, which was attended by IRA prisoners, Adams told Sinn Fein delegates that the party should consider concentrating on building its electoral strength to give them greater muscle in future negotiations. He described further talks about IRA disarmament as "pointless" and said there was the prospect of a "long vacuum" besetting the peace process.

At the same time, he said the party would remain committed to a peace settlement and challenged Mandelson to reinstate the Executive, which governed the North for 10 weeks.

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Adams also called on republicans and other pro-agreement parties to show their political clout by taking to the streets for demonstrations. However, that call is unlikely to be heeded beyond his own party.

Mandelson tied to kickstart negotiations by holding separate meetings with Adams and Trimble, whose parties are the entrenched opponents in the present crisis.

But afterward there appeared to be little advancement, as each side continued to distribute blame for the deadlock.

Sinn Fein member Gerry Kelly, who accompanied Adams to the Mandelson meeting, said: "We are now dealing with a British veto as opposed to a Unionist veto. Unilaterally, the British took the institutions down and it is up to them to put them back up. We have not got an answer to that question.”

But Trimble said: ”Suspension arose because republicans failed to implement the agreement. The problem can only be cured if the republicans implement the agreement. I think what we want to hear from Mr. Adams is that he and the republican movement will finally undertake their part of the agreement.

”We need a process in which the parties can engage and I think it is important that they do engage. As for the suggestions we have had from republicans that they were going to bin the process, withdraw from it and so on, I think it is most unhelpful.”

SDLP leader John Hume put forward the only concrete proposals for progress, calling for a round-table meeting of all the parties, involving the head of international decommissioning panel, Canadian General John de Chastelain.

"Let’s get together, listen to each other, restore the institutions and give the people of Ireland, north and south, a return to the optimism which held the day at Christmas," Hume said. "The massive support for the agreement remains."

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