Adams assailed by father of IRA victim

 

The Sinn Fein president, Mr Gerry Adams, was confronted by the family of a victim of the IRA as he continued his eight-day Australian visit last night.

Mr Roy Melrose, the father of Mr Stephen Melrose, a Brisbane lawyer who was mistaken by gunmen for an off-duty British soldier in the Netherlands in 1990, attacked the way Mr Adams has been feted at a civic champagne reception.

Some 1,000 guests had been invited by the Brisbane Lord Mayor, Mr Jim Soorley, to honour Mr Adams's role in the peace process.

The Prime Minister, Mr John Howard, refused to meet the Sinn Fein leader.

Mr Melrose said he was angry. Neither the IRA nor Sinn Fein had expressed genuine regret over the killing of his son and his friend, Mr Nicholas Spanos, who were working as lawyers in London. "I want peace in Northern Ireland as much as anyone but I don't think there can be a peace while those blokes are there," he said.

Mr Adams, who was refused an entry visa to Australia for two years, told reporters the killings were wrong and as someone who had also had family killed in the Troubles he had an affinity with the bereaved families.

"I regret very, very much that it happened. I can only ask them [the families] to understand that our commitment is to build a climate and an environment where nothing like this can happen again," he said.

He also announced the establishment of a Friends of Sinn Fein group in Australia to help counter "nonsense" being fed to the world about Ireland by the British government. When he arrived at Brisbane City Hall he was greeted by a small group of extreme right-wing protesters waving a banner reading "IRA scum". But inside he was mobbed by supporters who wanted autographs.

During his tour so far, Mr Adams has expressed support for the republican movement in Australia and for the Aboriginal people, who, he believes, deserve an apology from the federal government.