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'Peace Process in Very Serious Difficulty' by Gerry Adams (1995)
Research: Fionnuala McKenna
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Article by Gerry Adams on the state of the Peace Process, published in An Phoblacht / Republican News on 2 November 1995.
Peace Process in Very Serious Difficulty
by Gerry Adams (1995)
When Niall O'Dowd, editor of the Irish Voice newspaper in
New York, was on the Late Late Show recently, he said he was
concerned that there was too much complacency about the peace
process. His remarks were a timely reminder that the process has
yet to be consolidated. During the same programme I made similar
points. However, in so doing I was very mindful of the danger of
crying wolf or of all the time being full of doom and gloom or of
being repetitive to the point to tedium.
There is the added difficulty that when someone like me, as
opposed to Niall O'Dowd, draws attention to the fragility of the
peace process, and of the need for vigilance this is interpreted
and misrepresented as a threat. So in seeking to consolidate the
peace process or to draw attention to difficulties within it I
have to be very careful in how I present my position.
The seriousness of the present situation however demands
that I visit this issue once again. The peace process is in very
serious difficulty. At this time and as I have said before there
is not the dynamic in the Irish situation to move the process
forward. There is an inherent dynamic in the forthcoming visit by
President Clinton but I am not optimistic that even this will be
enough to provide the momentum which is necessary to get to
The problem is that the British government has been able to
stop any progress by its refusal to move to all-party talks
unless the IRA disarms. For the British their aim remains one of
seeking to defeat Irish republicanism and removing it as an
element in Irish politics. It is in this context that the British
demand needs to be judged. London is seeking a concession which
it knows will not be granted. The reason for stalling the peace
process around this demand is so that it will frustrate Irish
republicans, distract and immobilise Irish nationalists and
fracture the broad consensus which has been built around the
objective of an inclusive peace settlement.
For the British the peace process so far has been a
continuation of war by other means. London really doesn't want to
move into all-party talks. All-party talks and the agreement
which they will forge means change. The unionists are resisting
change. They are refusing to move into all-party talks also.
Therefore, to bring the changes which are necessary means the
British government having to bring the unionists along this road.
Mr Major so far is not prepared to do this.
What are the changes which he and the unionists are
resisting? They are fundamental constitutional and political
change. There is a need also for a democratisation of the
situation and there is a need for total demilitarisation, which
includes the permanent removal of all the guns from Irish
The British government stance is a tactic aimed at reducing
the momentum and dynamic for change and diminishing or diluting
the expectation of change. The British have been hugely
successful in reducing this, in slowing down the peace process.
There have been a number of efforts made to break the
protracted impasse. All of these have failed. At this time it
appears that the current efforts which started the last time I
was in Washington, have failed also or are at the point of
failure. These efforts involved the White House, the Irish
government, John Hume and myself being in constant contact with
each other and with the British government.
In the course of this various formulations were considered
by all sides and early last month John Hume and I worked out some
propositions which Mr Hume presented to John Major and which
Martin McGuinness and Gerry Kelly presented to British Minister
Michael Ancram on 20 October. Before presenting these to the
British, John Hume and I sought a joint meeting with the
Taoiseach John Bruton so that he would be the first to receive
our joint proposals. The aim of these proposals was to get
all-party talks started and to get the arms question settled to
Much to our surprise Mr Bruton refused our request for a
joint meeting. In its place he offered separate meetings. So John
Hume and I returned from Dublin without seeing him. That was on
John Bruton's refusal to meet with us jointly is a matter of
judgement for himself. When news of it broke here however it
caused understandable concern among nationalists and republicans.
When he later explained that he was concerned not to
upset unionist sensitivities this cause even greater
disappointment and some anger. At a time when the British are
stalling the peace process many people in Ireland were looking to
Dublin to provide an alternative dynamic. So the difficulties
which are bogging down the peace process have been deepened
because of John Bruton's stance.
What then of the proposals put by John Hume and myself? What
has the British response been to those? Today, Tuesday, 31
October, Martin McGuinness met British Minister Michael Ancram at
Stormont. Sinn Fein had been hopeful that this meeting would have
taken place last week but we failed in our efforts to get the
British to meet at that time. Our intention, and Martin
McGuinness wrote to Michael Ancram about this in advance of
today's meeting, was to have a substantive engagement the aim of
which would be to resolve the problems which are stalling and
subverting the peace process.
The meeting lasted for approximately three hours. Following
it Martin McGuinness in a brief statement to the media said: ''On
20 October myself and Gerry Kelly provided Michael Ancram with
proposals, agreed by Gerry Adams and John Hume, which have the
objective of ending the current deadlock in the peace process by
moving us into all-party talks. The proposals sought also to get
the arms issue settled to everyone's satisfaction.
''We went into today's meeting seeking a substantive
engagement to work out a formula on these matters as the basis
for forward movement and in an effort to salvage the peace
''We've had a detailed discussion. There are major
difficulties. We've arranged a further meeting for Friday.
Regrettably, the impasse in the peace process has not been
It is clear therefore that the British strategy is to string
this phase of the peace process out in much the same way as they
have protracted the entire process since before 31 August 1994.
They are not interested in real negotiations at this time.