Sinn Féin President has described his appeal to the Provisional IRA last week to commit itself to purely political and democratic activity as an attempt to break the “downward spiral” of the peace process and “create the right political context”.

Speaking in Derry today, Mr Adams expanded on his historic appeal for an end to armed struggle which he said was “aimed directly at IRA Volunteers and the IRA support base”.

“The logic is straight-forward,” he said.

“The IRA is being used as the excuse to delay the process of building peace with justice on this island.

“Furthermore, unless there is bold and decisive action the peace process is going backwards. Who do we expect to take such bold and decisive action? Ian Paisley? David Trimble? Paul Murphy? Michael McDowell?

“The downward spiral of the peace process is not in the interests of the majority of people on this island.

“It is therefore not in the interests of republicans. It is not in the interests, in my opinion, of the IRA.”

Mr Adams’ address was welcomed by political and church leaders in Ireland, Europe and the U.S. In an initial response, the IRA said it would give Adams’ call “due consideration.”

The IRA has substantially disarmed in recent years but has rejected calls for it to disband or stand down, pointing to the failure of the Dublin and London governments to abide by the 1998 Good Friday Agreement.

It had been reported that a decision by the IRA on Mr Adams’s appeal could be expected within weeks.

However, Mr Adams told journalists in Derry today that he believed the process could take longer.

“I have to say that in my opinion, it is not likely that the IRA’s process can conclude as hastily as that. Not if there is going to be a proper inclusive debate, with the possibility of the response that I am looking for.”

The Catholic Primate of Ireland, Archbishop Sean Brady described Mr Adams’s address as “helpful and very significant”.

A spokesman for the administration of the US President, Richard Boucher, said it was encouraged, although he added that it is waiting for concrete action in the form of an IRA response.

US Congressman Peter King said he believed the IRA could now wind up.

“In terms of Irish history this is certainly an enormous statement, the fact that he’s asking the IRA to stand down. When you look at this ... in the full context of history it’s a very, very dramatic step forward.

Mr Adams has again rejected suggestions that Sinn Féin is merely engaged in a pre-election media stunt.

“It was an attempt to create conditions where there can be proper engagement. This is about leadership. It is about trying to give leadership in difficult circumstances.

“The atmosphere was getting poisonous for the last few months. If things remained where they were, things were going to get more and more poisonous.

“If the situation had continued without an initiative like this, I think the whole thing would just have gone down the tubes in the months ahead and I could not, as part of a leadership, allow that to happen,” Mr Adams said.

Referring to the initiative as “a very sensitive and delicate part in this new phase in the process”, Mr Adams admitted that many republicans will have difficulties with the development.

“This is going to be a very difficult discussion for republicans to engage in, and don’t think for one moment that when I made my remarks republicans were jumping up and down in front of their television screens and shouting ‘hallelujah’,” Mr Adams said.

“I want to see people take ownership of this debate.

“This is a very, very difficult issue for people to come to terms with and they have to be given the space,” he said.

Mr Adams also repeated his insistence that a viable, non-violent political alternative now exists to replace armed struggle.

“I was one of those people who always argued for an alternative and who defended, when there was a need to defend, armed struggle.

“It is now my view that there is an alternative. There is a change in the confidence of nationalist and republican people throughout this entire island.

“There is, for the first time since the 1920s, a viable Sinn Féin structure throughout the entire island. There is an all-Ireland agenda.

“The Good Friday Agreement essentially is an accommodation within an all-Ireland context, so all of those issues need to be driven ahead.

“The way forward is the way that I outlined. Those of us who want this to work have a duty to take risks for peace and to try and give others from opposite political views the opportunity to work with us in the time ahead. I have set out the course of action that we want people to take and I’m not going to unsay that,” Mr Adams added.

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