Wednesday, September 30, 1998 Published at 02:29 GMT 03:29 UK
Back united Ireland, Blair urged
Gerry Adams: To uphold the union means using repression
Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams has called on Tony Blair to abandon the union and start working for a united Ireland.
But in a speech to a Tribune group rally, Mr Adams said the government could not claim to be a neutral "referee" between nationalists and unionists.
He said: "To uphold the union means using repression, denying civil and human rights and defending equality and injustice.
"If there is to be change there needs to be new thinking in Labour.
He added: "Britain created the problem in Ireland, for British policy has sustained the conflict and divisions.
"The British Government therefore has a major responsibility and role in initiating a strategy which will bring a democratic resolution and a lasting peace."
Mr Adams's comments are likely to infuriate unionists at a difficult time for the peace process.
Mr Adams was in the conference hall - along with Northern Ireland First Minister David Trimble and Deputy First Minister Seamus Mallon - to hear Mr Blair's keynote address.
The prime minister will hold separate meetings with the three men on Wednesday in an attempt to break the current impasse on arms decommissioning.
The impasse centres on Mr Trimble's demand that the IRA start decommissioning its weapons before Sinn Fein takes up its places on the new Northern Ireland executive.
Sinn Fein says it is entitled to take its place and Gerry Adams has called decommissioning a "dead end issue".
However, the crucial confrontation is likely to come on Thursday, when Mr Trimble and Mr Adams are due to hold their third face-to-face meeting in Belfast.
Mr Trimble, leader of the Ulster Unionist Party, insisted at a fringe meeting that the IRA meet its obligations under the Good Friday Agreement to begin the decommissioning process.
"It is important we have a genuine peace, not a sham," he said.
Nevertheless, he said he thought the current difficulties could be overcome.
"I hope and believe we will manage to overcome this problem. I remain fundamentally optimistic about this process we are engaged in," he said.
At the same meeting, Mr Mallon - deputy leader of nationalist SDLP - warned both Sinn Fein and the Ulster Unionists the "running sore" of decommissioning must not be allowed to wreck the peace process.
"Until we can draw the poison from this issue, it is going to continue to put this agreement in destability," he said.
"I believe this should and must be tackled quickly."