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5 September 2002 Edition

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Adams slams unionist obstacles

BY MICHAEL PIERSE


GERRY ADAMS has branded the upcoming Ulster Unionist Council (UUC) meeting an attempt to "get rid" of the Good Friday Agreement and has hit out at accusations of republican orchestration of sectarian street violence in Belfast. His comments come after another week of sectarian attacks, including abortive loyalist assassination attempts throughout the Six Counties.

The UUC meeting, due to be held on Saturday 21 September, is yet another in a catalogue of attempts, he said, to create "whatever obstacles unionism can invent".

"It could also be that we will see yet another round of the blame game unfolding," he said. The British government must take primary responsibility for its role in sustaining unionist intransigence, the Sinn Féin President concluded:

"If these problems grow into crisis proportions it will also be because the British government has failed to honour commitments it made both in the Good Friday Agreement and just over a year ago in the Weston Park talks. This has created the space within which the crisis within unionism has festered."

That crisis has also afforded loyalists with ample opportunities to create and manipulate sectarian tensions, he said.

In a clear rebuff to recent accusations by unionists and the RUC/PSNI, Adams insisted that republicans have not been involved in orchestrating the violence.

"Republicans have not been involved in orchestrating or fomenting violence at the interfaces or anywhere else for that matter. Our opposition to sectarianism is absolute. All of our efforts have been to try and end the totally intolerable situation for the benefit of all the people who are victims of these attacks," he said.

Events this week have signalled that, despite soundings to the contrary from within loyalist circles, the sectarian onslaught is set to continue.

On Sunday, a UDA assassination attempt in Coleraine, Co Derry, failed due to a gun jamming. Attacks in Coleraine, Larne, Antrim and Carrickfergus have rocketed over the past 12 months, it was revealed this week. Further attacks have been carried out by loyalists on the Short Strand and on a Catholic Church in Lisburn. A sectarian hatchet attack on a 15-year-old Catholic boy in Antrim, who remains still in a critical condition, was carried out on Friday. On Sunday night loyalists aborted an attack on the County Derry home of SDLP Assembly member John Dallatt. Armagh GAA fans, jubilantly returning by bus and train to their home county on Sunday, were also attacked.


On Monday night the Loyalist Commission, an umbrella organisation representing loyalist death-squads, unionist politicians and Protestant clergy, issued a statement saying that it will do all it can to encourage a "period of calm". But this will be viewed sceptically by nationalists and republicans, in light of previous statements this year of a similar tone that failed to deliver.

British Secretary of State John Reid's response has been to say that people are "sick and tired" of a blame culture at interface areas. Reid continues to prevaricate on calls to pursue legal action against leading loyalists known to be orchestrating the violence.


NOT A TIME FOR 'NO' MEN


Meanwhile, Adams has again exhorted the pro-Agreement elements of unionism to defend the Agreement, and has called on both the Irish and British governments to do their utmost to avoid the prospect of yet another crisis.

"This is not a time for pandering to the NO men of unionism. It is a time for democrats, including YES unionists, to assert the imperative of that agreement. Given the nature of society here, there was always bound to be difficulties about creating the conditions for the changes that are required and which should be the birthright of all citizens.

"The responsibility of all the pro-Agreement parties, and this includes both governments, is to manage this process of change in a way that minimises the difficulties and avoids the potential for crisis.

"Unfortunately, despite some good and positive work, neither the unionist parties nor the British government have adopted this approach with the consistency that is required."

An inconsistent approach from the British government has allowed a minority within the UUP to wield an exaggerated and detrimental influence on the process, Adams pointed out.

"The result has been that difficulties for unionists have become a crisis within unionism which regularly threatens the overall process. The problems in the time ahead for the process are rooted firmly in the divisions and the power struggle within the Ulster Unionist Party."

This will hinder efforts to build a consensus campaign against sectarianism, he said.

"The failure of David Trimble to lead a united pro-Agreement campaign against this has been a failure of his position as First Minister. I have made a number of suggestions and proposals to him in this regard, going back over some time. He has failed so far to respond positively. Despite this, I and all Sinn Fein representatives are prepared to work with the other pro-Agreement parties and to support Mr Trimble in his capacity as First Minister in putting in place strategies and structures to calm the situation and to confront sectarian divisions.

"Given the failure of the First Minister to act, we have also made a big effort to get the British government to ensure, as the Agreement asserts, that people have the right to live free from sectarian harassment."

Another "frenetic round of crisis management meetings" may be on the cards in the coming weeks, the Sinn Féin leader predicted.
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