For the first time since the Northern Ireland peace effort was interrupted last Tuesday, Gerry Adams, the political leader of the Irish Republican Army, reaffirmed Saturday that he would consider any “reasonable proposal” for an international commission on disarmament of the guerrilla organization.
He said also, in an interview in Dublin, that disarmament of the IRA, which is in the 13th month of a cease-fire it declared in its fight to free Northern Ireland of British control, was one of the chief issues he wanted to discuss with American officials on a trip to Washington and New York that Adams will begin on Monday.
Adams, the president of Sinn Fein, the IRA’s political wing, made it clear that he had not yet seen a disarmament proposal that might be acceptable. He said he had requested a meeting with Anthony Lake, President Clinton’s national security adviser, to discuss how to revive the Northern Ireland peace effort, which stumbled on Tuesday when the Irish and British prime ministers postponed a meeting set for Wednesday that was to have produced an agreement to set up a commission that would deal with the IRA arsenal.
He said that the Clinton administration’s Northern Ireland policy had been “even-handed” and that he did not expect pressure to make concessions on Sinn Fein positions.
Asked if he might accept a commission where the disarmament issue could be “parked,” meaning where it could be considered without binding decisions on deadlines and methods of disarming, he said, “We will consider any reasonable proposal.”
Officials in Dublin said the postponement of the meeting scheduled for Wednesday was partly due to Adams’ refusal to give an explicit commitment that IRA guns and bombs would never be used again and that Sinn Fein would not threaten the resumption of IRA violence.
Adams denied Saturday that he had been asked for such a commitment, and said that the planned meeting between Prime Ministers John Major of Britain and John Bruton of Ireland had been scuttled by a British demand that the IRA surrender some weapons before Britain would accept Sinn Fein’s demand to be allowed to take part in all-party talks toward a settlement of the conflict in Northern Ireland.
Asked if he thought the postponed meeting had increased the possibility of a resumption of violence by the IRA, he said: “The British are playing a very high-risk game that has bogged down the peace process. The IRA has maintained a cessation despite provocations.”
Would the cease-fire continue?
“I would hope so,” he said. “Sinn Fein is absolutely committed to peaceful methods. The peace process is my central priority.”