25 March 1999 Edition
Surfin' in the USA
In an unprecedented move Sinn Féin sent 13 leading party members to attend engagements in every corner of the US.
Gerry Adams, Martin McGuinness, Bairbre de Brún, Pat Doherty, Sean McManus, Martin Ferris, Gerry Kelly, Mitchel McLaughlin, Alex Maskey, Joe Cahill, Rita O'Hare and Des Mackin all spoke throughout the US to explain the current state of the peace process and to seek support for its position that the Good Friday Agreement must be implemented.
All were well received at all venues and the highlight of the tour was Gerry Adams speech at Emory University.
Speaking at the University Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams pointed out that power should have been transferred on March 10 from the London and Dublin governments to the new All-Ireland institutions. He also outlined Sinn Féin's commitment to use ``this time in Washington, and in Ireland, to defuse this crisis''.
Adams reiterated Sinn Féin's belief that the gun must be taken out of Irish politics. However, this must mean all of the guns, legal and illegal. He also stated his belief that the peace process can close the ``enormous gap between Unionists and Republicans''.
Successful Washington trip for Adams
The St Patrick's Day celebrations and political discussions in Washington were completely overshadowed by the brutal killing of human rights lawyer Rosemary Nelson. Speaking on his arrival in Washington Gerry Adams described Rosemary as ``a brave and courageous women who refused to allow state violence and intimidation deter her from the task of defending human rights and speaking out against injustice. Particularly the mass intimidation and siege of the nationalist community on the Garvaghy Road. Rosemary's life was an example of how one person can make a difference in standing up for truth and justice''.
UUP leader David Trimble outraged everyone when he publicly, and privately in meetings with US politicians, accused republicans of responsibility for the bomb attack.
Elements of the British media again tried to set Gerry Adams agenda in the US by claiming that President Clinton was set to exert serious pressure on Sinn Fein to secure IRA decommissioning.
As usual the truth was very different. There was no pressure from the White House, no criticism of Sinn Fein from Congress members or Senators but a general acknowledgement of the enormous contribution republicans have played in creating and sustaining the peace process.
During his two days in Washington, Gerry Adams met Senators Chris Dodd and Teddy Kennedy, as well as the International Relations Committee of the Congress which will hold hearings in April on the RUC. The Sinn Fein leader also had a one hour meeting on St Patrick's evening with President Clinton which Adams described as ``very friendly, positive and constructive''. The US President made clear to the Sinn Fein delegation his willingness to do all that he and his administration can to help break the current impasse and move the peace process forward. The meeting, which was held in the Oval Office, also included Sandy Berger the National Security Advisor and his deputy Jim Steinberg. Gerry Adams was accompanied by Rita O'Hare, Friends of Sinn Fein President Larry Downes and Richard McAuley.
Later Gerry Adams held a thirty minute discussion with UUP leader David Trimble in an office provided by the US President. Speaking afterwards Adams expressed his regret that Mr Trimble had not used the opportunity in Washington to indicate his willingness to meet the Garvaghy Road residents. The Sinn Fein president said, ``the meeting with Mr Trimble was cordial, but I have to say that he showed no evidence whatsoever of changing his position and of making demands on me which I cannot deliver-and he knows that''.
Mr Adams revealed that for the first time the UUP leader spelt out his demands: ``David Trimble made it very, very clear that he wants from the IRA what he described as an ``event'' that he wants it to be larger than the LVF event - a multiplier of three or four times, he wants it to encompass weapons, detonators, timers and explosives and he wants it to be done in a credible and verifiable manner. And this event must be the first of a series of such ``events''. I pointed out to him once again that I just couldn't deliver that, it isn't possible''.
The Sinn Fein leader spoke of his willingness to ``stretch'' the republican constituency in an effort to advance the peace process but made it clear that David Trimble would have to be ``in the loop''. ``I am prepared to reach out, but I want to make sure that Mr Trimble and I jump together on this. But I stress it has to be within the terms of the agreement and I cannot deliver from the IRA what the British government couldn't achieve in the last thirty years''.