IRA has not gone away, Adams warns ministers IRA has not gone away

`Let no one tell you we will not break the British connection, because we will'
Click to follow
The Independent Online
DAVID MCKITTRICKGerry Adams, the Sinn Fein president, yesterday accused the British government of strangling the peace process and warned that the IRA "hadn't gone away".

Speaking at a large republican rally in Belfast city cen- tre, Mr Adams offered no new flexibility on the issue of de- commissioning IRA weapons.

His speech followed a weekend of serious disturbances in several parts of Northern Ireland as republicans objected to loyalist marches passing close to Catholic areas.

In the worst incident, 12 Royal Ulster Constabulary officers and 10 civilians were injured in clashes on Belfast's Ormeau Road as police removed Catholics protesting against a small Orange march past their homes. As the parade passed a betting shop where loyalist gunmen had killed five Catholics in 1992, one marcher mimed spraying it with machine-gun fire.

These and other disturbances have made July and August one of the most eventful marching seasons in Northern Ireland for many years, with communal tensions increased by recurring controversies over marches.

Mr Adams criticised both the RUC and loyalist marchers, declaring: "There was a time when the Orangemen thought that they owned this part of Ireland, when they thought they could bully-boy and intimidate their neighbours. Those days are finished."

He exhorted his followers not to lower their expectations, saying: "Let no one tell you that we won't have Irish unity - we will. Let no one tell you that all our political prisoners will not be released - they will. Let no one tell you that we will not break the British connection, because we will."

The principal themes of banners and placards carried at the march and rally were for "all-party peace talks now" and for the release of republican prisoners. As Mr Adams accused the Government of intransigence and of strangling the opportunity for peace, a man called out: "Bring back the IRA." Mr Adams was applauded when he responded: "They haven't gone away, you know."

Many of the bands and marchers chanted pro-IRA slogans as they made their way to the rally.

On the de-commissioning issue, Mr Adams said Sinn Fein was committed to taking all guns, including those of the Army, RUC and loyalists, permanently out of Irish politics. But he said there was no expectation within the British establishment or within Unionism that the IRA would disarm.

He said that he and Martin McGuinness of Sinn Fein had recently made clear to the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, Sir Patrick Mayhew, that all-party talks represented their minimum demand in the peace process. They had also made it clear, he said, that an IRA surrender "isn't on".

His call for talks was echoed by John Hume, the SDLP leader, who said the weekend violence underlined the need for early talks. He said the Government should set a date early next month to get all parties to the table to agree an agenda.

The RUC yesterday defended its decision on Saturday to allow loyalist marches to pass along the Ormeau Road in south Belfast and along a section of Londonderry's historic walls which overlook the Catholic Bogside area.

In Londonderry, police in riot gear removed 200 demonstrators from the city walls. The parade itself passed off peaceably but early yesterday stone-throwers injured a fireman and damaged shops and vehicles with petrol bombs and other missiles.

Police replied to the petrol-bombing by firing a number of rounds of plastic bullets, some of which hit members of the crowd of about 100. There were other overnight disturbances in Belfast and in Armagh city.

Comments