Gerry Adams says dissidents ‘at war’ with nationalist community

Sinn Féin leader speaking after hunger strike posters defaced and bonfires in Derry and Belfast

Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams has accused dissident republicans of being ‘at war’ with the nationalist community and challenged them to enter into dialogue in order to end their violence. Photograph: Eric Luke/The Irish Times

Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams has accused dissident republicans of being ‘at war’ with the nationalist community and challenged them to enter into dialogue in order to end their violence. Photograph: Eric Luke/The Irish Times

 

The Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams has accused dissident republicans of being “at war” with the nationalist community and challenged them to enter into dialogue in order to end their violence.

Mr Adams made his comments in west Belfast on Tuesday after a number of recent incidents where dissidents were blamed for threatening members of Féile an Phobail, the West Belfast Festival, currently running in west Belfast.

Sinn Féin adverted to the dissident murder in March of prison officer Adrian Ismay but also said that the dissidents were directly involved in community violence and stoking community tensions.

Dissidents were accused of picketing the Féile an Phobail offices, of defacing hunger strike posters and of erecting bonfires in recent days in the Falls, Twinbrook and New Lodge area of Belfast and in the Bogside in Derry “in defiance of the wishes of the community”.

In Derry the bonfire was built in the middle of a main road. A petrol bomb was hurled at PSNI officers trying to deal with the Bogside bonfire on Monday night, with Sinn Féin stating that dissidents were using the bonfire to try to draw police into the area in order to attack them.

A number of houses were evacuated during the subsequent police operation. “All these bonfires involved anti-social behaviour, street drinking and drug taking, criminal damage, street fights involving knives, hammers and car thefts,” said Sinn Féin.

Mr Adams accused dissidents of being directly involved in such incidents or inciting young people to get involved in anti-social behaviour.

“Some of those involved in these groups are heavily involved in criminality. And while the majority of their attacks and threats have been against members of the nationalist community they have also killed and injured police and prison officers,” he said.

“Recently they have sought to promote confrontation at interfaces and on the issue of marching. It now appears they are also seeking to heighten confrontation with the community,” he added.

Mr Adams said there were 90 dissidents in prison. “That is a lot of families, that is a lot of people alienated from the system. If we can help in any way to assist those who want out of this, as opposed to those who are engaged in criminality, then we have a duty to do that,” he said.

“I would appeal to those involved to end their futile violent campaign, which is going nowhere. It causes hardship and loss for families, including prisoners’ families,” he added.

“Sinn Féin believes in the centrality and importance of dialogue. We are willing to meet with these groups and lay out our strategy and vision for the future. If these groups had any integrity they would enter into dialogue with us,” said Mr Adams.

“We have consistently called for dialogue. They have consistently refused. They are a mixum-gatherum of different groupings and individuals. But there is a responsibility to try and show leadership. And despite our abhorrence of what they are doing and despite their contempt for us we have to show leadership.”