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'Peace Process in Very Serious Difficulty' by Gerry Adams (1995)

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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 all-party talks.

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 society.

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 everyone's satisfaction.

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 13 October.

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 process.

''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 broken.

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.

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