The DUP has accepted the principle of power sharing and dialogue with Sinn Féin, Gerry Adams has said.
He was speaking on the Inside Politics programme marking the one-year anniversary of the IRA’s decision to end its armed campaign.
“In these issues the DUP have conceded the principle - in terms of sharing power, the Good Friday Agreement, dialogue with Sinn Féin,” he said.
In what is seen as a potential breakthrough in peace efforts, Mr Adams said Ian Paisley was “playing for time” but accepted the inevitability of power-sharing.
“So it’s actually just a matter of, can they through this tactical approach they are taking, garner some sort of support from the governments for their position and can they put off the awful day, as they would see it, as long as possible?” he said.
The DUP has publicly said that it wants to broker a new deal to replace the 1998 Agreement, but it has not refuted Mr Adams’s statement.
However, SDLP assembly member Sean Farren said claims that the DUP had agreed to the principle of the Good Friday Agreement were false.
“The DUP has still has not accepted the Good Friday Agreement. All they have accepted is the failed flawed comprehensive agreement of 2004 negotiated with Sinn Féin,” Mr Farren said, referring to a previous round of negotiations which fell apart over Paisley’s demands for the humiliation of the IRA.
“That flawed agreement undermines the Good Friday Agreement’s protections and essentially provided for voluntary coalition between DUP and Sinn Féin.”
“It is not the way forward for any of us and the DUP need to recognise this.”
He added that the people who voted in for the Good Friday Agreement stil demanded its full implementation.
In wide ranging comments to mark the first anniversary of the formal order by the IRA leadership to dump arms and embrace a political and democratic way forward, Mr Adams contrasted opportunities and progress in Ireland with other conflict situations around the world such as the Lebanon, Palestine, Iraq and Afghanistan.
The West Belfast MP claimed “the ripples” from IRA concessions were still spreading.
Mr Adams described the IRA’s decision to end its campaign as “pivotal” but said he knew that “anti-IRA elements and anti-republican elements” would not thank it for any of its moves.
The Dublin and London governments indicated this week that the IRA is adhering to its commitments on the road to peace.
“When I was making my appeal in April of last year and then around July after the IRA announcement, I made the point that opponents of the process of change weren’t just going to roll over,” Mr Adams said.
“I think when you are conscious of what is happening in other parts of the world the onus is on us to deliver so that we don’t ever slip back into what was happening here,” he said.
“The fact is we have been so lucky and blessed to have got to this point in the peace process.”
However, Mr Adams said some of the ‘no men’ of unionism may resile from what is the truth.
“The reality is that unionism needs saved from itself,” he claimed.
The MP was asked if he thought that the peace process, having come so far, could now be considered permanent.
“I suppose what I like now is the fact that young people take it for granted. I think it is terrific,” he said.
But sectarianism remained a scourge for the North of Ireland.
“This is a dysfunctional statelet in which we live,” he said.
“Unionism of course gets upset when somebody like me says that but the depth of the measures and the various guarantees and safeguards contained in the Good Friday Agreement shows you how far we have had to come to get any sort of a functioning equality ethos.”
Mr Adams argued that the IRA had very much been the creator of the peace process and a “guarantor” of it in terms of a majority of republican opinion. But he said it was also an unsettling process for republicans.
“I think it is to the credit of republicans that they have thought a way through,” he said.
“Despite an unsettling process republicans have been very solid and sound in that approach.”
Mr Adams added this does not mean there aren’t difficulties.
“Of course there are difficulties and our leadership is open to criticism,” he said.
“Does that mean that people when they have the opportunity to voice that criticism don’t voice it? Of course they do. And they are right to do so.”