Republican News · Thursday 11 May 2000

[An Phoblacht]

Adams praises IRA initiative

Last Saturday, 6 May, Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams unveiled a monument erected in memory of dead IRA Volunteers from the Lenadoon area of Belfast who lost their lives in the course of the last 30 years of war against the British. The unveiling was scheduled for Saturday and went ahead within an hour of one of the most significant statements made by the IRA in the course of our recent history.

Here, Adams shares his thoughts on this week's events with An Phoblacht.

On Saturday last I unveiled a monument for IRA Volunteers killed in action from the Lenadoon area of Belfast. It is a very fine monument in the form of a full-sized sculpture of Cú Chulainn. The monument is in the grounds of the Roddy McCorley society club on the lower slopes of the Black Mountain, on an elevated site overlooking Belfast and its lough.

It strikes me that thinking unionism will embrace this offer and the peace process could be saved. The Sinn Féin leadership gets some credit for all of this and that's fair enough. But the real credit goes to the IRA
Saturday was a beautiful day. The unveiling was scheduled for 1.30pm and when we arrived there was a large throng of people assembled. There were the families of the dead Volunteers, their comrades, neighbours, friends and all those who helped to raise the money for the monument and organise the event.

They were, for various reasons, a crowd of people who had one thing in common; they were supporters of the IRA who had suffered much for their commitment over the last three decades.

Unknown to them, a half hour earlier the IRA leadership had issued a statement which is now acclaimed as historic and unprecedented. I decided both to tell the gathering about this development and to explain it to them. As I spoke I watched the faces all around me. That the IRA was going back to meet the de Chastelain Commission was obviously a surprise. Given the way that the positive report from the Independent International Commission on Decommissioning (IICD) had been treated by the British government in February - this was very much a natural and widespread reaction. By suspending the institutions the British not only binned the report but they undermined the Commission itself.

Little wonder then that my audience was taken aback. But that wasn't all. The IRA were also prepared to set in place a confidence building measure which involves international statespersons Cyril Ramaphosa and Martti Ahtisaari inspecting a number of arms dumps on a regular basis.

I explained the detail of all this, the imperative of the peace process and the need for republicans not to be confused or confounded by the various spins and twists that would be put on this latest IRA initiative.

I asked them to get a copy of the statement and to read it themselves and to calmly and strategically discuss it. I explained and read to them the context in which the Army leadership will put arms beyond use (See IRA statement, Page 8).

The crowd was focused and intent and it struck me that of all those who have a stake in the issues involved, apart from the IRA itself, that my audience was representative of that great sward of republican activism which really has given its all and would do so again if it had to for the cause of freedom and justice on this island. They are the heart of the republican struggle and the heartbeat of the peace process.

I had some sense then of the difficulties facing the IRA leadership and of the magnitude of the IRA's initiative. That leadership, this latest intiative and the way that it is managed will be scrutinied closely by the republican base.

The tolerance threshold amongst republicans for messing by the British government and/or the unionists is very low. In better circumstances inadvertent mistakes, mishaps, could be tolerated but given the amount of messing over the last number of years, I doubt very much that this is part of the curernt mood. That is not to say that most republicans will not give this initiative a fair wind but I cannot exaggerate the internal pressure on the IRA leadership.

So why did they do what they did?

Clearly because they want the peace process to succeed. And also because they want to give some reassurance to those unionists who want to be assured of republican intentions.

Could it all come to nought? Yes.

The British government could yet do some side deal on some other issue, probably around the future of the RUC, in a tactical manoeuvre which will be outside the conditions which led to the IRA initiative. Or the UUP could seek so many concessions around the IRA initiative that they will fritter away the potential for progress that now exists. Or both.

On the other hand, it strikes me that thinking unionism will embrace this offer and the peace process could be saved. The Sinn Féin leadership gets some credit for all of this and that's fair enough. But the real credit goes to the IRA.

Sinn Féin put together the package, but it was the IRA leadership which had to take the hard decisions. I think the crowd at the unveiling last Saturday realised that. They also knew that however this latest development works out, that the struggle for freedom and justice has to continue. That's if we are to build the only proper monument to those who died.

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