SDLP, Alliance and TUV castigate Gerry Adams over ‘peaceful unity’ comments

A number of political rivals have poured scorn on remarks by Gerry Adams about the 1998 Belfast Agreement and the prospects for peaceful reunification.

Tuesday, 26th October 2021, 7:00 am
Updated Wednesday, 27th October 2021, 11:01 am
Gerry Adams at the funeral of Bobby Sands

The News Letter reported yesterday on Mr Adams’ comments, which he made in an interview with Sinn Fein’s magazine, An Phoblacht, on Saturday.

Mr Adams declared that past generations “never had the chance to peacefully bring about Irish unity”.

He continued: “We do. We’re the first. We won that in negotiations. We won that on the back of struggle.

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“We won that by staying true to democratic and republican objectives – and building support for those objectives.”

He was referring to the fact that the Good Friday Agreement allows a referendum to be held on Irish unity.

SDLP MLA Pat Catney told the News Letter: “Two traditions share this island. We are destined by our common history to live side by side.

“The violence of the past has only deepened the divisions between our communities and delayed the prospect of uniting our people in a just and prosperous new Ireland.

“Gerry Adams can try to whitewash the last fifty years all he likes, the struggle that delivered the Good Friday Agreement, that delivered the constitutional path to new future and a new Ireland, was the struggle for peace, not conflict.

“We all have a role to play in shaping the future of this island, the more who commit themselves to the primacy of democracy, the rule of law and the power of persuasion, the better.”

Alliance’s Stewart Dickson told the News Letter: “We’ve an awful lot to do to bring together a united Northern Ireland before we think about uniting anything else.”

As to Mr Adams’ remarks on peace, he said: “Every generation has had an opportunity to operate peacefully.

“Sadly some others have chosen not. Violence cannot and will not be a solution to anything – either in the past, now, or in the future.”

And the TUV issued a statement in the name of its Foyle candidate Elizabeth Neely.

In it she pointed to the fact Northern Ireland did have a referendum in 1973, which was boycotted by nationalists and republicans – and on the day of the poll the IRA planted bombs in Belfast, London, and Londonderry.

“The truth is that those who chose to take up the gun and the bomb did so not because a democratic path was closed to them but because they didn’t like the result of elections,” she said.

“Northern Ireland came into being, and remains 100 years on, because that is the will of its people – a people who resisted 30 years of violence designed to subvert that democratic will.”

Mr Adams portrayal of republicans’ “winning” the concessions contained in the 1998 agreement comes despite the SDLP and UUP being the overwhelming driving forces behind it.

As leading Irish academic Prof Brendan O’Leary has noted, at the time the 1998 accord was struck Sinn Fein was only “reservedly pro-Agreement”.

In May 1998 for example, in reference to the official renunciation of Dublin’s claims over Northern Ireland – which was a key part of the 1998 deal – Mr Adams said: “Sinn Fein opposes changes that would dilute the definition of the territory of the nation, weaken the imperative to unity or dilute the citizenship rights in the north and incorporate the ‘consent’ clause.

“We do not accept the legitimacy of the six county statelet. And we never will.”

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