SF leader brands killers as cowardly individuals


Many republicans and nationalists are "outraged" at how Robert McCartney's murder is being "cynically exploited to undermine republicanism", Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams said yesterday. Gerry Moriarty, Northern Editor, reports.

Mr Adams was speaking in Derry at one of the more than 100 Easter Rising commemorations held throughout Ireland yesterday.

"What annoys me the most is not the criticism from the two governments, our political opponents, or those sections of the media who are clearly delighted to have a go at us. We are used to that and we can take it.

"What annoys me the most is that a small group of individuals are not prepared to face up to their responsibilities.

"Instead these cowardly individuals will allow an avalanche of propaganda aimed at criminalising republicanism. So, let me be clear, I am not letting this issue go," he said.

"Whatever way people feel about how the McCartneys are running their campaign, this family have the right to truth and justice. And we as a party have a duty not to allow republicanism to be diminished in any way," he added.

He said that Sinn Féin in its commitment to the peace process and to achieving a united Ireland faced "more hard choices" and "more hard decisions".

"The fact is that those who want the greatest change have to take the greatest risks. Time and time again we have demonstrated our willingness to do this. Are we ready to do that again? Are we ready to take more risks, to step up to the plate and demonstrate again the courage and tenacity, which is the hallmark of Irish republicanism?

"I believe we are. I believe we must. I intend to return to this issue in the short period ahead." Mr Adams said he would be holding talks with Taoiseach Bertie Ahern after Easter.

He blamed the Government for many of the difficulties in the peace process.

He accused it of "partitionism, self-interest and incompetence" and of its policies being driven by fear of Sinn Féin's electoral growth in the South.

He said its approach to the process was "shallow and short sighted".

Sinn Féin's chief negotiator Martin McGuinness insisted yesterday that the IRA was wrong in offering to "shoot" Mr McCartney's killers but refused to say it would have been a crime if it had carried out its threat.

Mr McGuinness also said it was a "probability" that after the British general election, expected in early May, that the deal that collapsed in December would be achieved.

He said he was working towards a situation where the IRA would cease to be a paramilitary organisation but that also involved a contribution from the Northern parties and the governments.

"My sense of it is from listening to the comments of Ian Paisley, the comments of Tony Blair, the comments of others within the process, given all that we have been through over the course of the last 10 years, is that there is still - not a possibility - in my opinion a probability that we can crack the deal in the immediate aftermath of the Westminster election," Mr McGuinness told The Jonathan Dimbleby Programme on ITV yesterday.

In that interview and in many of the keynote commemoration speeches it was clear that the issue of Mr McCartney's murder and the McCartney family's campaign to bring the killers to book is still causing major difficulties for Sinn Féin and the IRA.

Of the IRA offer to shoot the killers Mr McGuinness told Dimbleby, "It would have been a terrible mistake, which would have impacted very badly on the overall process, and I am glad that it didn't happen."

Mr McGuinness said Dimbleby was engaging in a current journalistic "let's play what is a crime game with Sinn Féin" when the interviewer pressed him to publicly acknowledge that the IRA was offering to commit a major crime in saying it would shoot the killers.

Mr McGuinness said it would not assist the peace process were he "to line up with everybody else against the IRA".

"In terms of our management of the process people have to allow us the flexibility to deal with these issues and to use the type of language that we choose to use as opposed to the type of language you would want me to use," said Mr McGuinness.