Brexit will ‘infect’ Irish-British relations for years, Gerry Adams says
Former SF leader calls on DUP to accept that majority of NI people voted to remain in EU
Former Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams: ‘A party that calls itself the Democratic Unionist Party have to recognise that the majority of people voted to remain within the European Union.’ File photograph: Eric Luke/The Irish Times
Former Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams has called on DUP leader Arlene Foster to “accept the vote of the people of the North” on Brexit as he welcomed reports that negotiators are considering a customs border in the Irish Sea.
Speaking at the National Press Club in Washington, Mr Adams said that Brexit will not be over if a deal is agreed, but will “continue to infect, contaminate Ireland for years and the relationship between the two islands”.
“The people of the North voted against Brexit,” he said, a reference to some 55.8 per cent of voters in the North saying they wished to remain in the EU.
“Arlene Foster should accept the vote of the people of the North. A party that calls itself the Democratic Unionist Party has to recognise that the majority of people voted to remain within the European Union. The DUP and one or two smaller parties are the only parties on the island to support Brexit.”
Mr Adams said the referendum result had underlined that partition does not work and that Brexit Sinn Féin campaigned against leaving the EU as it knew that “if one part of the island left the European Union and the other side stayed within it we were in trouble”.
“The partition of Ireland is illegitimate, is immoral and is totally and absolutely wrong,” he said.
When asked about reports of a possible customs border down the Irish Sea, Mr Adams said: “We could live with that”.
Asked if Brexit was raising the possibility of a united Ireland, he replied: “The demographics are changing. That’s a fact. The Unionists in the last number of elections have lost their absolute majority.”
He also said that there was now a consensus emerging in Northern Ireland against the DUP’s stance on issues such as Irish language rights, abortion and marriage equality. “Every party, except the Democratic Unionist Party, and the majority of MLAs are for all of those rights.”
The Louth TD also called on the Government to establish a citizens’ forum to explore the issue of Irish unity.
“Brexit is proof that you shouldn’t have a referendum without a plan,” he said. “Having a referendum without a discussion, without a debate without an understanding of what it might lead to would be a mistake.”
He said he did not predict a return to violence in Northern Ireland in the immediate future.
“I don’t see the prospect of any return to what we used to have. The IRA are gone. These groups have no popular support, have no strategy and in some cases are deeply penetrated by British and other intelligence agencies,” he said.
Asked about claims by former IRA member Des Long in a recent BBC documentary that Mr Adams was a member of the IRA, he replied: “I have never hidden my association with the IRA. I think that the IRA was a very legitimate response to British military occupation.
“Did it do things that were unacceptable? Yes. There are many things that I would not countenance. But I think the big mark of the IRA, aside from the support it enjoyed and the resistance it gave to British military occupation, is that when it was given an alternative, it embraced it. Des Long didn’t.”