Republican grassroots wary

John O'Neill johnfergaloneill at
Thu May 1 12:15:14 MDT 2003

Republican grassroots wary of more demands for 'humble pie'

  Many republican activists and Sinn Féin voters in Belfast are uneasy at
the compromises being demanded, writes Suzanne Breen, Senior Northern

It's not enough for unionists and the British government, but Gerry Adams's
statement on the ending of Provisional IRA activities has left many
republicans uneasy.

In north and west Belfast last night, many IRA activists and supporters,
along with Sinn Féin voters, voiced concern about the compromises demanded
from their community.

Some believed the Sinn Féin/IRA leadership had gone too far at the behest of
the British government and the Ulster Unionists. But most, however
uncomfortable with the situation, retained confidence in their leadership.

Sinn Féin voter Mr Brendan Kelly said: "This is the second time in days that
republicans have had to eat humble pie. The IRA statement should have been
enough for Trimble and the Brits, but they demanded clarification.

"Gerry Adams gave that but they wanted more. So he has done that and they
still say it's not enough. Do they want blood?"

Sinn Féin voter Ms Eileen Keenan accused Mr Trimble and Mr Blair of
attempting to humiliate her community.

"We're expected to accept what they say at face value even though they've
broken promises, but we are asked to spell everything out again and again.
Gerry Adams shouldn't have bothered making any statements to them, but I can
see why he did."

Republican Sinn Féin member Ms Geraldine Taylor said the Provisional IRA had

"Gerry Adams is telling the truth when he says the Provos will do anything
to save the peace process - that includes betraying republicanism," she

Mr Michael Devlin said he had supported the peace process "with grave
reservations" but had now lost faith in it.

"We shouldn't have gone crawling. We should have told the Brits and the
unionists to get lost.

"The IRA hasn't demanded the British army stop its activities and hand over
weapons, so what right has Britain to order the IRA about?" he said.

A former IRA prisoner, who asked not to be named, said: "People are
genuinely concerned the IRA mightn't be around in the same way, but we must
encourage the community to embrace change. We all must move on."

An IRA member in Andersonstown was "furious" that Gerry Adams was talking
about the IRA effectively going out of business. "I'm very disillusioned.
The IRA should be about fighting to achieve republican goals. Instead, we
seem to be dedicated to saving the Good Friday agreement."

Another IRA activist said he would wait for an internal briefing before
passing judgment. But he was angry that IRA members still hadn't seen the
statement from their own leadership. "The statement has been shown to David
Trimble and Tony Blair, but not ordinary members. That's wrong," he said.

A Sinn Féin election worker in Andersonstown believed the party's vote would
increase in the Assembly elections.

"We have gained from the political stand-off. It'll help get the vote out.
We can say we went the extra mile for peace but Trimble and Blair wouldn't,"
he said.

A former Sinn Féin election worker in Derry, Mr Frankie McMenamin, said:
"I've full confidence in Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness. The British
government and the unionists shouldn't mess them about. They should be
grateful the IRA supports peace and isn't going back to war."

A party voter, Terry Donaghy, said: "Some people might feel anxious about
Gerry Adams's remarks on the IRA winding up, but if it's necessary for
peace, we should accept it."

A former IRA prisoner, Anthony McIntyre, said Gerry Adams was committed to
"defeating physical-force republicanism". "He now has more in common with
David Trimble than with the average west Belfast republican," he said.

© The Irish Times

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