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Rivals slam Adams on words to kin of dead republicans

February 16, 2011

By Staff Reporter

By Anne Cadwallader

BELFAST — A blazing public row has flared up involving Sinn FTin, the SDLP, IRA victims and some politicians in the South over a commemoration in Dublin for the estimated 450 republicans who were killed over the last 30 years.

The row shows the depths of antagonism between Sinn Fein and other elements of nationalism, on both sides of the border, as the political temperature heats up in advance of next month’s general election in the Republic and next year’s assembly elections in the North.

The row sprang up in the wake of a commemorative dinner Saturday night, organized by a group called Tfrghr_ (Love of Country). Each family received a sculpture, by artist Robert Ballagh, of a bronze Easter lily, set in granite.

Speaking after the event, the South’s attorney general, Michael McDowell of the Progressive Democrats, said Sinn Fein has a “yellow streak” about them.

He joined the SDLP deputy leader, Brid Rodgers, in criticizing the event, at which Sinn FTin eulogized the republican dead in a dinner attended by 2,500 people in the Citywest Hotel on the western fringes of Dublin.

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Rodgers condemned the Sinn FTin president, Gerry Adams, for “repulsive revisionism” in his speech at the dinner. “Murders by security forces, loyalists or the IRA couldn’t be justified at the time nor can they be morally justified now,” she said.

The vast majority would be appalled by the Sinn Fein president’s “glorification” of IRA violence, Rodgers continued. “What was glorious about the murders of innocent civilians in Belfast, London or Claudy? What was glorious about the murders of workmen on their way home from work?”

McDowell, an election candidate in the Dublin South East constituency, said, “They are willing on a quiet basis to celebrate their paramilitary links, but when they are asked by members of two democratic bodies which they claim to respect — the U.S. Congress and the Oireachtas — to come before them to discuss their activities in Colombia, they point-blank refuse.”

Adams had praised the “extraordinary caliber” of IRA volunteers, describing the campaign as a “noble cause.”

“There would be no peace process if it were not for the IRA,” he said.

Adams praised the IRA volunteers who formed “one of the most effective guerrilla armies in the world. They were prepared to put their lives on the line in pursuit of that noble cause.”

However, he also said, “Part of our great endeavor is to reach out to make peace with those we have hurt and with those who have hurt us.” He told the families of “our patriot dead” that they must be mindful that no one has a monopoly on suffering or of the pain and emptiness that comes with bereavement.

Martin Ferris, the Sinn Fein candidate for Kerry North, said there should be no hierarchy of victims and that each community must be given the space to remember their dead.

“Gerry Adams said that we want to reach out to make peace with those we have hurt and with those who have hurt us. It is a pity that rather than acknowledging such an endeavor Mr. McDowell rushed out in search of cheap headlines,” Ferris said.

Speaking at the Tfrghr_ event, Adams said: “Some of us gathered here tonight first met at a time of great trauma in your lives as you absorbed the shock and pain at the loss of a loved one. We came as strangers to be with you and you greeted us with great tenderness and love and humanity. We came to comfort you, and time and time again it was we who were comforted by you. This evening is our thanks for all that. . . . Part of our great endeavor at this time is to reach out to make peace with those we have hurt and with those who have hurt us. And even here tonight, on this very republican occasion, I want to once again stress to unionists that we want to build upon the opportunity for peace that exists.”

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