Adams denies SF orchestrated march protests

 

THE Sinn Fein president, Mr Gerry Adams, has reacted angrily at claims made in an RTE television programme that his party had infiltrated and orchestrated residents' groups protesting against marches.

While Mr Adams and residents' groups from Belfast's Lower Ormeau and the Garvaghy Road, in Portadown rejected the allegations, the Orange Order said they "totally vindicated" its decision not to talk with these groups.

Mr Adams said that the allegations on Tuesday night's Prime Time made the task his party had set of averting "Drumcree number three" much more difficult.

He "refuted totally" and described as "scurrilous, dangerous and irresponsible" the programme's claim that he told an internal republican conference that Sinn Fein was behind the protests on the Garvaghy Road, Portadown, the Lower Ormeau Road, Belfast, and other areas.

Tuesday night's programme quoted from what it alleged was a transcript of remarks made by Mr Adams to an internal party conference in Athboy, Co Meath, last November. It claimed he said: "Ask any activist in the North did Drumcree happen by accident and they will tell you `no' ... three years of work on the Lower Ormeau Road, Portadown, and parts of Fermanagh and Newry, Armagh and Bellaghy, and up in Derry."

The programme's presenter, Justin O'Brien, said that the breakdown in law and order in the North last summer, "in the face of unionist rage", was a "direct result of Sinn Fein organising residents' committees from Derry to Newry, from Rosslea to Belfast's Ormeau Road, to oppose the right to march

Asked yesterday if he had made the remarks quoted in the programme, Mr Adams said his speech to the conference was unscripted, but he had made similar remarks publicly at press conferences and public meetings. He said he made no apology for this, because people had "the right to organise in a peaceful way to draw attention to their plight and look for equality of treatment".

Mr Adams said residents opposing Orange marches were looking for the "minority of contentious, triumphalistic, sectarian, coat-trailing exercises not to go into areas where they are not wanted".

On Sinn Fein's involvement in the marching issue, Mr Adams said the party had a "balanced and responsible" record of involvement on the whole issue of equality, which covered a range of matters, including "triuinphahstic sectarian parades".

He upheld the right of the Orange Order to march, but said its members should consult and talk to the host communities.

He accused unionists of "seizing on the programme's allegations as an excuse for not talking" and urged dialogue between Orange leaders and local people.

"Let Dr Paisley and Mr Trimble set an example. Let them meet their own constituents and let them find a way of bringing in a new - for the first time since Partition - summer for the people of both sections of the community here to enjoy equality of treatment."

The Orange Order's grand secretary, Mr John McCrea, said some residents' groups were not "tainted by the poison of Sinn Fein/IRA". The officers of these associations should seek to improve community relations to reduce tension, he added.