Adams woos Unionists

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The Independent Online
THE Sinn Fein president, Gerry Adams, yesterday signalled that his party will accept the Anglo-Irish framework document as the basis for negotiation with the British government. He called on Ulster Unionists to come to the conference table with "your hopes and dreams, your concerns, your fears . . . let us all as equals seek to find ways to persuade each other of our good intentions."

Mr Adams told Sinn Fein's Ard Fheis, the party's annual conference, attended by more than 1,000 delegates in Dublin, that the framework document envisaged an all-Ireland political framework and represented a recognition that partition failed.

The Government is anxiously waiting for signs that the document will meet a less hostile reception from the Unionist community than the condemnation which it provoked from Unionist MPs.

Although Mr Adams' speech at the Mansion House was well received, the Sinn Fein leadership was embarrassed by three speeches of criticism from Dublin delegates who attacked the peace process and claimed it would not lead to British withdrawal.

It was a rare instance of public criticism of Sinn Fein and the IRA from Republican ranks. The three critics, all young men, represented the party's Dublin area council. A substantial minority of delegates appeared to respond to their call to abstain on a number of motions before the conference.

One of the critics, John Hughes,, said the IRA ceasefire should not have been called as the British had not shifted far enough. "We believe Republicans are in danger of finding themselves at the end of a process that could last years, with minor improvements in the position of Nationalists and cosmetic cross-border institutions being accepted by others, but leaving us short of our minimum demand of British withdrawal."

The Dublin representatives abstained on key motions passed by the conference commending the IRA ceasefire and congratulating the Sinn Fein leadership on its handling of the peace process. Martin McGuinness, who is leading the party's talks with British officials, was loudly applauded as he praised the IRA as the "undefeated army of freedom fighters".

"The tide of history is flowing with us to our journey's end," he said. "The framework document confirms that partition has failed. . . and that British rule in Ireland has failed." There should be no misunderstanding Sinn Fein's position. The British had to leave Ireland for good. "We want national self-determination and the creation of a secular pluralist society."

Executive members Tom Hartley and Pat Doherty stressed the need to reach an accommodation with Unionists. Mr Doherty said Sinn Fein regarded the Unionists as part of the Irish nation. "Their hurt and their pain must be taken seriously by us . . . We have always advocated a new constitution embracing the diversity of Ireland in all its forms - Protestant, Catholic and dissenter."

Ulster arithmetic, page 6; leading article, page 22