Gorbachev confident in NI peace process

 

The former Soviet president, Mr Mikhail Gorbachev, today expressed his confidence in a successful conclusion to the Northern Ireland peace process.

But Mr Gorbachev was critical of a perceived double-standard expressed by British political leaders who sought military responses to crises in eastern Europe but political initiatives in Northern Ireland.

"I responded very harshly when there was a crisis in Yugoslavia, in Bosnia, Kosovo, when some British politicians were calling for the use of force there by international forces.

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Terrorism is not acceptable, we have to fight terrorism
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Mr Mikhail Gorbachev

Bombing and the use of force in other countries is not the solution, Mr Gorbachev continued.

He described terrorism as unjustifiable. "Terrorism is not acceptable, we have to fight terrorism. But we also have to understand the root causes," he said.

During his efforts to reform the Soviet system, Mr Gorbachev said he still believed the union of soviet states should have been preserved, despite its problems.

The bureaucratic machinery of the Soviet union could not keep pace with the changes taking place and developments had been planned - including giving countries back their rights as sovereign states, Mr Gorbachev added.

However, some people reaslised this would lead to free elections and "my former ‘comrades’ staged a coup against that and against me", Mr Gorbachev said.

Those same comrades then voted for the dissolution of the Soviet Union. Mr Gorbachev admitted he had made mistakes during this process - such as waiting to reform the Communist Party which had become a "stalling factor to progress".

Mr Gorbachev was then asked to respond to 30-year-old female Russian hydrometeorologist engineer working as au pair in Dublin who had asked "what good is freedom without a job?".

He responded that freedom of speech should be cherished after a regime where people could be imprisoned for telling a joke in their kitchen.

He said "If a person cannot find a job and cloth his children, that is a very, very, difficult situation". But he added, in many parts of Russia today are now more jobs than people to fill them.

Mr Gorbachev said he hopes to develop a close relationship with Enterprise Ireland during his visit.

Mr Gorbachev will lunch with President McAleese this afternoon before being given the freedom of the city in a ceremony at 4 p.m.