Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams interviewed during his visit to Spain

Gerry Adams is in Spain today to promote his book. He has just been interviewed on Spain's most popular morning radio news programme, Hoy por Hoy on Cadena Ser. Here are some extracts of the interview.

Allegations were published in the Spanish press this weekend about a possible meeting between Father Alec Reid, and leaders of Basque terrorist group ETA. Father Reid played a key role in the Irish peace process, is one of Gerry Adam's friends and advisors and it recently came to light that he also advises Juan Jose Ibarretxe, President of the Basque regional government and leader of the separatist PNV.

When asked about the role of Father Reid in the Basque situation in Spain this morning, Adams was very careful with the wording of his answer. He said that since he had arrived in Spain he had been told about the rumours published in the Spanish press about Father Reid's possible role in "helping efforts to initiate a peace process" in Spain. Adams stressed his own wish to be careful in his response to these rumours, because he was just visiting Spain, whereas he was conscious that many Spaniards who live here had suffered and been victims of the Basque problem. But he did confirm that he had had a telephone conversation earlier this morning with Father Reid, and he could confirm that there are efforts underway to initiate a peace process in Spain.

When asked about the similarities between the fight for independence of the Basque Region and Northern Ireland, Adams acknowledged that there was always a temptation to compare peace processes and freedom fights. He said the main similarity between both situations was that you must have dialogue to begin any attempt to resolve conflict (possibly an allusion to Father Reid's alleged meeting with ETA leaders). Adams said there could be no progress without debate, that people needed to inform and listen. That in any peace process, you have to create a space for your enemy, just as Sinn Fein and the Irish Unionists did, and that some people and political groups may find this frightening, but that progress would be impossible without more dialogue. Adams said is was also important for political parties and groups to make commitments and to comply with them. He said that unlike ordinary politics and business, where some degree of misleading your opponent could be considered to be "legitimate", for a peace process to be successful, deceit is unconceivable.

Gerry Adams is to have meetings with Basque president Ibarretxe, leader of ETA's political wing Ortegi, and leader of the Catalan republican party, Carod Rovira during his stay in Spain. When asked why he had not got any meetings planned with leaders of Spain's main political parties, Adams said that the main objective of his visit was to promote his book, and that if it had been a visit with political motives, his agenda would have been very different. He said that while he shared a mutual interest to meet with Ibarretxte, Ortegi and Carod Rovira, the initial proposal came from them rather than him

When asked if the peace process in Northern Ireland has come so far now that it has become irreversible, or whether recent difficulties endangered progress made until now, Gerry admitted that there was a possibility that some groups could return to violence, but that there was much to be lost if this occured. He said he rejected what he called " an armed peace".

Gerry Adams will be promoting his book in Spain for the next three days. His visit is expected to generate much interest among the Spanish press and public because of the inevitable comparisons between the respective Basque and Irish causes and also because of the speculations about the recent role of Father Reid in conversations with Basque terrorists and politicians.

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