'Let them put up or shut up'

30 January 2005 By Paul T Colgan

Gerry Adams hopes the Taoiseach's 'full-frontal attack' on Sinn Fein last week will not become government policy.

If it does, it will be a signal that the government does not think the peace process can work in the short term, Adams tells Paul T Colgan

Q: How did your meeting with Tony Blair go?

A: Well, the meeting was presented in some sections of the media as if it was going to be a row.

We made it clear that if the British prime minister wanted a row then we could have a row. But I didn't think there was going to be a row and there wasn't a row--no more, incidentally, than there was in the meeting between us and the Irish government.

What happened after the Irish government meeting was that the Minister for Justice [Michael McDowell] totally misrepresented the nature of that meeting when he said that Martin McGuinness and I had agreed to go off and reflect upon the government's insistence that we would deal with the issue of criminality. He was telling fibs.

Q: How do you respond to the McDowell's comments of recent days?

A: I'm more concerned that the Taoiseach appears to have bought into the Michael McDowell script.

Michael is as Michael is - he's an opportunist, he isn't best suited to the business of working out these matters because his focus is about either staying in this coalition or trying to get into the next coalition.

His anti-republicanism is famous, so my concern isn't as much about what Michael McDowell is saying, although I find it very offensive. It appears that he is taking the lead position for the government on the North, particularly since Brian Cowen shifted. That's my concern.

Q: What are the consequences of this shift for the peace process?

A: It's driven by short term and party political concerns. The government in Dublin may have taken a view that because of the state of unionism that it may not be possible to get a deal together between now and the next election, and therefore, why not beat up on Sinn Féinin in the meantime? You've got to hand it to the Taoiseach, the day after a very close associate of his [Ray Burke] is sentenced to six months, when he should have been scrutinised over this whole affair - what did he do? He played a blinder.

This is all very entertaining in the short term if it wasn't so serious.

The reality is we want to work with the Taoiseach. He and we have been part of the greater effort to move the process on. If he attacks us we will robustly defend our position.

The failure of the initiatives last December and the attempt to criminalise republicans at the moment have made profound difficulties worse. And the stance of the government at the moment is not even aimed at trying to sort them out.

Q: Are you saying the government has taken its eye off the ball in terms of working on substantive issues?

A: Well, that appears to be the case. It appears the Taoiseach has gone for a full-frontal attack. I hope that is not going to become government policy because that will be a very, very firm signal that they don't think the process can work in the short term.

Q: How is your working relationship with Bertie Ahern?

A: We do business. I have acknowledged and commended his role in the process. There's always been differences between us. We would argue that the Irish government as a co-equal partner should be advancing the national interest like the British do in a very systematic way.

Q: But he has made very specific allegations about the Northern Bank raid against yourself and Martin McGuinness.

A: Yes, but he has been unable to back them up.

Q: Are you saying that he does not believe in what he is saying or that he is being misled?

A: You'll have to ask him. I think he made a considered statement to damage us. I don't think he should have made that statement; it is not true. And I think he has done himself, us and the process a disservice.

Can we live with that? Yes, because we have to; in a perfect world we wouldn't.

Q: Why shouldn't the IRA, like some commentators have suggested, now disband on its own terms so the republican movement would not find itself in this position?

A: All of those issues are matters for the IRA. I have to say, not about those commentators, but about our detractors who are saying the Sinn Féin leadership are playing footloose and fancy free with this process and that we're not sincere about it and we're being deceitful about it. Well if they think they can do a better job, let them come forward.

We're not in this for any other reason than to get all of these issues resolved. If anybody thinks that Michael McDowell can be trusted with this process, then let Michael step forward.

Also, there is some talk about credibility and so on - there's an election, it's in Ireland, it's in the North, it's a British general election but it's open to the PDs, Fine Gael, Labour and Fianna Fáil. Let them have the courage to come and stand in West Belfast or West Tyrone or Mid-Ulster. Let them come forward and contest with Sinn Féin on their own party platform and let the people who have the vote have their decision and respect the mandate that's given to us. Let them put up or shut up.

Q: What's next for the process? When will you next meet with the government?

A: We did agree with the Taoiseach that when he concluded his round of meetings, including that with the British prime minister, that we would meet again.

That was totally misrepresented by the justice minister. It depends what the meeting's for. If they want to have a meeting to have a row, well, that's fair enough, but when the “ri rá“ is finished then the serious business of sorting this out will have to continue.

Comments: Post a Comment

<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?