The IRA could have gone on “forever” had the peace process had not taken place, former Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams has claimed.
n an interview with BBC Northern Ireland’s news correspondent Mark Simpson ahead of the 25th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement next month, Mr Adams said the peace process presented a viable alternative for the republican movement.
“We realised that the IRA could have continued forever, because it had the base of support that it had, and it had obviously the capacity,” Mr Simpson quoted him as saying during an interview at Stormont.
Asked if he was serious, Mr Adams replied: “Oh yes. For as long as it deemed it necessary, and had there not been the initiatives taken to present the alternative.”
The historic peace deal reached on April 10, 1998, brought an end to The Troubles that had raged for 30 years.
It followed a ceasefire called by the IRA the previous year which allowed Sinn Féin to become involved in the peace talks.
Mr Adams’ claim about the IRA came as Northern Ireland Secretary Chris Heaton-Harris told the House of Commons today that the terror threat level in Northern Ireland has increased from “substantial” to “severe” meaning an attack is highly likely.
He cited a “small number” of individuals who remain determined to use “politically motivated violence” after the British intelligence agency MI5 raised the threat level.
The decision to raise it followed a number of incidents targeting security forces in the North recently, including the attempted murder of Detective Chief Inspector John Caldwell in Omagh last month.
Meanwhile, Mr Adams said the Good Friday Agreement was possibly the most important agreement of the past century.
“It’s certainly the most important agreement of our time, and arguably for the last 100 years or so,” he said. “It’s a rather complex agreement. Interestingly enough, it’s an agreement to a journey without agreement on the destination,” he added.
He also said revealed that he never realised how ‘brave’ former Ulster Unionist Party (UUP) leader David Trimble was until his death last year.
The agreement split the UUP, which was the largest unionist party at the time. Some members of the UUP negotiating team, including Jeffrey Donaldson, refused to be a party to the agreement and left the peace talks at the last minute.
“Because we were so busy managing our own house, it was only when David Trimble died, and I saw some of the footage of him speaking at unionist meetings and other meetings with unionist folk, that I realised how brave he was in arguing as he was arguing,” he said.
He added that when Sinn Féin entered the talks in 1997 the UUP refused to engage with him or his party directly.
“David (Trimble) wasn’t talking to us. I met him once in the men’s room, and said hello to him and he told me to ‘grow up’,” he said.
But he said the pair came to a mutual understanding following the signing of the agreement.
“Subsequently, after the agreement, I used to meet him quite often, and privately, and we got on I think quite well, and we got to know each other at a personal level.”
He also described death threats he received after backing the agreement as “an occupational hazard”.
“The issue of my life being at risk over the agreement didn’t ever enter into it, and that’s not to say I was a hard man or anything else. It was an occupational hazard,” he said.
Mr Adams, who is now 74, also revealed that he believes he will see a united Ireland if he lives until he is 100-years-old.
“It will come in phases. We’re actually in a process of change. I don’t know if I’ll live on until I’m 100 but certainly I’d like to think if I live long enough, that I will grow old in a free, united Ireland.”
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