- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 17, 2009

BLOODSHED IN BELFAST

For most of his political career, Gerry Adams defended violence against British rule in Northern Ireland.

However, on a Washington visit Monday, he condemned the latest killings in his homeland as an attempt to scuttle a fragile peace he helped negotiate in 1998, known as the Good Friday Agreement.

He advocated a “full frontal assault on the perpetrators” of the attacks, which killed two British soldiers and a Northern Irish policeman earlier this month near the capital, Belfast. Mr. Adams said the “vast majority” of people in Northern Ireland oppose a return to the tit-for-tat violence between Catholic and Protestant militants that devastated the British province for most of the 20th century.

“They must not be allowed to succeed,” he said of the killers, who accuse him and his political party, Sinn Fein, of betraying the fight for unification of Northern Ireland and the independent Republic of Ireland in the south.

“Sinn Fein is as much of a target as those who were killed,” added Mr. Adams, a Catholic.

Mr. Adams has been a regular visitor to Washington for St. Patrick’s Day celebrations and usually attracts modest press attention. At the National Press Club on Monday, he faced a room crowded with reporters for publications from Washington to London to Moscow.

“Had these killings not happened, many of you would not be here today,” he said.

In Northern Ireland, police have 11 suspects in custody for questioning into the slayings of the policeman on March 7 and the soldiers on March 9.

The Irish National Liberation Army and two splinter groups of the Irish Republican Army - the Real IRA and the Continuity IRA - claimed responsibility for the attacks, according to reports from Northern Ireland.

“They are very, very, very small groups of people. They don’t have public support,” said Mr. Adams, whose party was long considered the political wing of the IRA.

Mr. Adams has not dropped his quest for a united Ireland; he has only abandoned the armed struggle for independence.

“Sinn Fein’s business is to build, sustain a peace process to move toward Irish unity in a peaceful and democratic way. … Achieving Irish unity is a major challenge. We have to work with the Unionists,” he said in reference to Protestants who want to maintain the union with Britain.

Mr. Adams added that he expects President Obama and his administration will continue what he called the even-handed approach to Northern Ireland set by President Clinton.

“We do want the U.S. to look at the whole issue of Irish unity,” he said.

Mr. Adams said he is due to hold talks Tuesday, St. Patrick’s Day, with Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and supporters on Capitol Hill.

IRISH LOSING LUCK

Irish eyes aren’t smiling, and the leprechaun’s pot of gold holds toxic assets.

But, as Ireland faces a St. Patrick’s Day amid the global financial crisis, the foreign office has ordered its ambassadors to put the roar back into the Celtic tiger.

Foreign Minister Michael Martin told Irish diplomats to talk up the Irish economy, which fell into recession in September. More than 100,000 people protested cutbacks in February in Dublin, and even the famed Waterford crystal company is in receivership.

Prime Minister Brian Cowen brought a trade mission with 100 Irish exporters to the United States to try to put the luck back into the Irish. He left New York on Monday for a meeting with President Obama in Washington on Tuesday.

“We are undertaking a large number of new initiatives across the full breadth of our relationship,” he said of U.S.-Irish ties. “This will re-energize and ultimately transform how Ireland does her business in America.”

• Call Embassy Row at 202/636-3297, fax 202/832-7278 or e-mail James Morrison

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