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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL

Interview with Gerry Adams on The IRA Disarmament

Aired October 24, 2001 - 06:10   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
LEON HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: Looking at the wider war against terrorism, we're taking a look now at a historic development under way in Northern Ireland.

The IRA, in a complete break from its armed past, has now announced that it is going to, and has, begun the process of destroying its weapons. This is something that has been a huge roadblock to achieving a peace and actual implementation of the 1998 Good Friday Accords in Northern Ireland.

We are joined right now by Gerry Adams. You may recognize him quite well. He is the president of Sinn Fein, which is the political arm of the IRA.

And we'd like to talk to you, Mr. Adams, about exactly why this happened now. So many of us have been watching the process and have seen and have heard for years now the IRA saying this would never, ever happen.

Can you explain to us exactly why this happened, and why now?

GERRY ADAMS, SINN FEIN PRESIDENT: Well, first of all, I should say that it's my very certain view that the IRA is not and never has been a terrorist group, no more than George Washington or former President Mandela were terrorists. And we have to take the IRA at face value in terms of its motivation for this. It didn't have to make this move.

Martin McGuinness and I worked with the other parties, with the British prime minister, with the Irish Teisoc (ph). We worked with Richard Haas, President Bush's special ambassador. We worked with President Mbeki in South Africa and the former President Mandela.

And we got a context in which we hope the IRA would be able to step, and we went to the IRA and we put this to them. And thankfully the IRA has stepped into that context, and its stated reason for doing so was to save the peace process. And I think it is almost inevitable that had that step not been taken, given the almost 300 bomb attacks by Loyalists upon ordinary Catholic and Nationalist families and the treatment being meted out, the horrible sectarian ill-treatment of young Catholic schoolchildren, given the serialized suspensions of the institutions by the British, and given the imminent collapse of the political institutions and that the peace process itself was going to collapse. So I think the IRA moved to save the peace process, and I think that liberating move has freed up the process and created a dynamic, which, hopefully, sends a signal, not just to people in Ireland and Britain, but to other parts of the world that there are other ways to sort out conflicts. And that is through politics, through generosity, through inclusiveness, through treating people on the basis of equality.

HARRIS: I know you would like us to look at this without any skepticism, but as observers of this process, for years, for decades now, it's almost impossible to look at it -- to not look at with at least a modicum of it, because we see this wider war now being waged against terrorism worldwide by the U.S. and by the U.K., by Great Britain. And you're telling us, then, that we're to believe that that is -- that this move being made by the IRA is being made and would have been made in a vacuum without such pressure being put on terrorists organizations around the world?

ADAMS: Well, I think a little bit of healthy skepticism is quite good. I think that's the job of journalism. I think cynicism is an entirely different matter.

The imperative here, and has been for some long time, is to make peace. Now, I don't want to get into, say, a discussion about, you know, pressure or even about freedom fighters and terrorists. But is clear that the IRA have withstood for 25 years everything that the British could throw at them, everything that the British army could throw at them, imprisoned and torture and executions and draconian and other measures.

So the IRA, we have to explore it from a slightly different position, perhaps even just to set aside our cynicism for a moment. Not that the IRA does want peace. Not that the IRA is moved by its vision of a new Ireland and by its view of the future, and it's that which makes that take these quite unprecedented moves.

HARRIS: All right.

(CROSSTALK)

ADAMS: Then we have to say to ourselves, can the others match this leap in imagination by building politics and building the peace.

HARRIS: All right. Let's talk about that -- the next steps here, what happens, because as we read it here, there is quite a bit of resistance within the IRA still. You have some hardliners there, who don't want to lay down their arms.

How is it, then, that you can reach this agreement and begin the political process, and guarantee that these factions are not going to disrupt it?

ADAMS: Well, it's about making politics work. I have to say that this step has been taken. It clearly is a leadership-led initiative, and I empathize with those who are opposed to it. I can understand the emotions, which many republicans have, and I have appealed to them to stay united, to keep the peace process going, to show clear heads and to have brave hearts at this time.

Now, what responsibility is there on others to try and reinforce or to underpin this initiative? The Ulster unions clearly have a responsibility. The British government clearly has a responsibility. We have to show that peace works, and we have to show that justice can be brought about through normal democratic means.

Now, I'm not unmindful of the reasons for cynicism and skepticism, but perhaps just once in a fairly bleak international situation, perhaps just, you know, when many Irish-Americans and people of 60 other countries were killed in the dreadful explosions in the USA, and there are six-and-a-half million people on the cusp of starvation in Afghanistan. Perhaps against that bleak scenario against the deterioration of the situation in the Middle East, maybe hope and history is reigning in Ireland, and there's a little signal to everyone that there is a way to go forward if there's a political will to do so.

HARRIS: And with all of that said, there are still people with voices on all sides of this saying, they never thought they'd see this day here, but it is here.

Gerry Adams, president of Sinn Fein, we thank you very much. It looks as though, perhaps, your work is just beginning, and we'll be watching to see how it all plays out. Thank you very much for your time today.

ADAMS: OK.

HARRIS: Daryn.

ADAMS: Good luck to you and thank you.

HARRIS: Thank you.

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