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S.F. leader delivers downbeat message to America

February 16, 2011

By Staff Reporter

By Patrick Markey

With the fate of the Northern Ireland peace process uncertain, Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams wrapped up a brief visit to the U.S., leaving behind a largely pessimistic take on the province’s political future.

Speaking to a crowd of nearly 1,000 Sinn Fein supporters at the party’s annual fund-raiser in New York, Adams said that he believed the current review of the Good Friday agreement would likely fail to break the impasse between his party and the Ulster Unionist Party.

"I think on balance, the Mitchell review will probably not succeed," Adams said. "I would be misleading you if I didn’t also tell you that the unionists have implacably stuck to their position."

Adams’s comments came as former U.S. senator George Mitchell continued his crucial talks with Northern Ireland’s political parties in an attempt to crack the deadlock over establishing a new power-sharing executive.

The Ulster Unionists have demanded that decommissioning of paramilitary arms begin before the new government is formed. Sinn Fein leaders say that condition lies outside the Good Friday agreement.

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Adams said that whatever suggestions or initiatives Sinn Fein made had not been enough for the Unionists, but that this was perhaps the last chance the Unionists had to solve the decommissioning puzzle.

"This is their last chance, their best chance to sort it out," he said.

Despite Wednesday night’s pessimism, Adams presented a more upbeat picture on Thursday afternoon when he spoke to political and business leaders at a lunch for the National Committee on American Foreign Policy.

With the review still in progress, there was a glimmer of hope left that it could salvage negotiations, the Sinn Fein president told the audience.

"There is a very tiny possibility that there may be a breakthrough," Adams said.

Questioned on his influence on the IRA over decommissioning, Adams said he could not simply ask the paramilitary group for a hand-over of arms.

"They would say no, and I understand why they would say no," he said.

Any progress toward a resolution would require Sinn Fein and the Unionists to stretch themselves further than they had thought possible, he said. While Sinn Fein recognized that UUP leader David Trimble was the best chance for success, the UUP had to realize that Sinn Fein’s broad proposals were the only way to bridge the differences between the two parties.

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