Adams noted Monday that there had been speculation that the response would come within weeks, but he did not believe that would be the case. The IRA has, however, pledged to give his call “due consideration.”
He said that while it was “entirely reasonable to ask how long it will take” for the IRA to complete its internal consultation, he had to warn he did not know how long that would take.
He also said it was his “firm intention to stay away from speculating or interpreting the IRA’s position.” If the IRA was going to have an inclusive debate, he said, it would take longer than weeks.
In his original message to the IRA, delivered last Wednesday at Belfast’s Conway Mill, Adams said it had “kept every commitment made by its leadership,” but that the struggle had “reached a defining moment” that required that the IRA move forward.
The response to Adams’s appeal ranged from outright dismissal from the two main unionist parties, who accused him of blatant electioneering and of “talking to himself,” to a lukewarm welcome from Dublin, and a warmer one from the archbishop of Armagh, Sean Brady.
The DUP, in particular, has made Adams work far harder by pledging never to share power with Sinn Fein in any executive where republicans have a place as of right.
The party has set its face completely against the d’Hondt system of sharing government offices based on the relative strengths of each party’s political mandate, the method stipulated in the Good Friday agreement.
Some republicans were confused and taken aback by his speech, the Sinn Fein president said Monday. Others could see worth in what he was saying, but that it would require debate and the IRA was “jealous” of its processes and independence.
Adams had said that the way forward for republicans was by “building political support for republican and democratic objectives across Ireland and by winning support for these goals internationally.”
In an immediate response, the IRA said: “The leadership of the IRA was given notice of the appeal by Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams. We have noted his comments. The IRA will give his appeal due consideration and will respond in due course.”
Adams last Wednesday had commended the IRA’s 30-year campaign but said politics was now the best option.
“Your determination, selflessness and courage have brought the freedom struggle toward its fulfillment,” he said. “That struggle can now be taken forward by other means.”
It was a defining moment for republicans, he claimed, which called for a “truly historic decision.”
Taoiseach Bertie Ahern, meanwhile, said nothing less than an end to all IRA activity and capability would be acceptable if there is to be any prospect of achieving inclusive politics.
“Gerry Adams’s appeal is significant and has potential,” he said. “However, ultimately this statement can only be judged on the basis of the IRA’s actions on foot of it.”
Unionists remained skeptical and dismissed the speech as a cynical election ploy, as did many journalists in London and Dublin. Adams denied this, saying that if talks were to get under way in September, decisive moves would have to be made now.
“The atmosphere was getting poisonous for the last few months,” he said. “If things remained where they were, things were going to get more and more poisonous.”
Sinn Fein sources also denied that Adams would have made such a call for the sake of another seat at Westminster, given that most pundits believe the party will do well in this election regardless.
Archbishop Brady, speaking from Rome, where he was attending Pope John Paul II’s funeral, said: “People are weary of the old ways of the past. They yearn for and they deserve so much more.”
The DUP’s deputy leader, Peter Robinson, said the Adams statement was “the kind of spin which gullible UUP leaders swallowed in the past and as a consequence ushered Sinn Fein/IRA into government three times. Thankfully, those at the helm of unionism today are more discerning.”