::: u.tv :::


27/07/2004 13:06:23

British prime minister Tony Blair has been warned that elements within his own system are encouraging a backward slide in the Northern Ireland peace process, Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams claimed today.

By: Press Association

It was being done to placate Unionists who were against change, he said.

Mr Adams told republicans at the graveside of former IRA Chief of Staff Joe Cahill whose funeral took place today: "It is the securocrats on the British side and their allies who are calling the shots."

The republican leadership will be heavily involved in intensive make-or-break talks in September in a bid to restore the power sharing executive in Belfast which was suspended last October over Unionist claims of an IRA spy ring operating at Stormont.

Republican west Belfast was brought to a halt for Cahill`s funeral. At one stage Mr Adams and the party`s chief negotiator Martin McGuinness, the IRA`s former No 2 in Derry and now the MP for Mid Ulster, carried the coffin which was draped in the Irish Tricolour.

There was a guard of honour of men wearing black berets and a lone piper headed the huge procession stewarded by republicans in white shirts and black ties.

With thousands in attendance, including the Brighton bomber Patrick Magee, it was one of the largest republican funerals in west Belfast since the IRA hunger strike death of Bobby Sands in 1981.

Cahill, 84, who helped form the modern IRA and shape its ruthless 30 year campaign of terror, died at the weekend from asbestosis.

The Sinn Fein president, a close confidante, said: "Tony Blair has said if the process isn`t going forward, it will go backwards. We have told him in recent times that elements within his own system, particularly within the NIO, are doing their best to subvert progress and to encourage the backward slide."

With next month marking the 10th anniversary of the IRA`s 1994 ceasefire declaration, he added: "The British government has a clear cut choice. Either it stands with the Good Friday Agreement and builds a bridge towards democracy and equality, or it sides with the forces of reaction as successive British governments did for decades."

In his funeral service homily, outspoken priest Father Des Wilson praised Cahill`s bravery and struggle to overcome what he described as a refusal of basic rights for many in Northern Ireland.

He told a packed St John`s Church: "The history of the
years in which Joe lived is like a history of horrors.

"But whatever the crisis, there were men and women like Joe and his companions who responded to the needs of those people who had not created war but too often were the victims of it."

Father Wilson, who has often been at odds with the Catholic Church hierarchy over his views, told how the former IRA chief would confront danger rather than walk away.

"But like so many of his fellow citizens, Joe was never given a city to live in which was worthy of his generosity or his courage," the priest said.

"And he came to believe that the powerful ones of this earth had sometimes to be met with their own weapons.
"For that he faced and suffered imprisonment, and faced and suffered even the sentence of death."

Despite his violent background, which saw Cahill jailed for his part in shooting dead a police officer and later for gun-running, mourners heard how he switched to championing the peace process.

Father Wilson added: "Joe had to make moral choices in his life, very difficult moral choices which cost him dearly.
"The last years of his life were spent helping to open the way towards a peace and stability such as we have never enjoyed before."

One anecdote recalled during the service involved Cahill joining a delegation from the republican movement who met Methodist Church representatives in a bid to ease tension.

Father Wilson, who helped set up the talks, said: "We were glad to do it and when the meeting took place Joe was there, but he insisted that, as a man of action, rather than words, he would say little. But what he said was wise and generous."

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