By Susan Falvella-Garraty and Ray O’Hanlon
WASHINGTON, D.C. — Calling for calm in the face of Orange Order protests in Northern Ireland, Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams expressed concern Tuesday that the disruptions were aimed at bringing down the Good Friday agreement.
"There are elements being driven by sectarian motives. We must be careful and vigilant, but also calm," Adams said.
"I have to say that the intimidation and disruption seems to be very much tolerated by the RUC," Adams said on the second day of a visit to brief the Clinton administration and congressional leaders.
"Many of the roadblocks are being put up by children and young people who are being exploited by cynical elements. I do think people see all this as being not about marching, but as an effort to assert the old domination and bring down the Good Friday agreement," Adams said.
On Monday, Adams visited the White House and presented a list of grievances focusing on the violence surrounding Orange Order marches and the British government’s legislative attempt at police reform.
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Calling the protests and violence in Portadown "intolerable," Adams told reporters after his meeting with Clinton administration advisors that there are some hopeful aspects following the week-long clashes between loyalists and the police in Northern Ireland.
"I think it’s a positive that the lack of support thus far has been visible," Adams said, referring to the fact that there have been fewer protesters than in previous years.
But Adams was also quick to point out his overall unhappiness over the British government’s ability to control the protesters.
"It’s been a negative that all of us have been put through this," Adams said. "We should not brushstroke the negative out of this."
Adams said it has been particularly difficult for residents of the mainly nationalist Garvaghy Road in Portadown.
As Adams entered the White House, he showed reporters a copy of his party’s printed analysis of the current Westminster legislation on police reform for Northern Ireland. He reiterated his concerns over what he considered to be limited reform contained in the bill as compared to the recommendations made last year by the Patten Commission.
But Adams also indicated all was not lost on the policing issue.
"There is still some space for this issue to be sorted out," he said.
Adams – now the most popular politician south of the border according to a Dublin Sunday newspaper opinion poll – said he was confident that support provided from U.S. lawmakers and from the White House for "full implementation of the Patten recommendations" would add to the pressure Sinn Féin has been applying to change the structure of the Royal Ulster Constabulary.
"It’s all up to Tony Blair," Adams said of Northern Ireland’s future political stability at a news conference later in the day. He said it would be necessary for the British prime minister not to bend to those who sought to "emasculate" the Patten Commission and those who have been hijacking vehicles and reacting violently to the ban on the Orange Order’s plans to march through nationalist neighborhoods.
On Tuesday, Adams met with members of the House of Representatives, including Rep. Richard Neal, who is introducing a resolution to match one presented to the Senate last week which calls for full implementation of the Patten Report.
Adams said that he had also raised the Robert Hamill, Pat Finucane and Rosemary Nelson murder cases during his Washington meetings. He also praised the presence in Northern Ireland of over 100 U.S. observers for this weeks Orange Order marches.
"The eyes of the world will be on the British army and Royal Ulster Constabulary," said Matthew Schneider of the New York-based Irish Parades Emergency Committee, one of the observer groups, prior to its departure for Northern Ireland.