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Wednesday, May 20, 1998 Published at 18:38 GMT 19:38 UK


Adams: 'I misjudged public reaction'

Gerry Adams is campaigning hard for a yes vote in the referendum campaign's final days

Gerry Adams has admitted that he misjudged the strength of public feeling when he invited a gang of IRA members to a Sinn Fein meeting.

Mr Adams, the Sinn Fein President, said he could understand the adverse public reaction to the appearance of the Balcombe Street gang at the party's special meeting earlier in the month.

The four gang members, jailed in 1975 after a siege in London, were released from prison specifically to attend the Dublin meeting. In front of television cameras they were mobbed by well-wishers and received a 10-minute standing ovation.

The IRA's leader in Northern Ireland's Maze jail, Padraig Wilson, also attended and received a hero's welcome.


[ image: Mr Adams and Hugh Doherty of the Balcombe Street gang at Sinn Fein's Dublin meeting]
Mr Adams and Hugh Doherty of the Balcombe Street gang at Sinn Fein's Dublin meeting
The scenes are thought to have offended many unionists in Northern Ireland, as well as moderate nationalists.

The unionist vote is crucial to the British and Irish governments, who are keen to see a forceful majority yes vote from both communities at Friday's referendum on the Stormont Agreement.

Mr Adams told a news conference: "I misjudged the raw emotion of delight which gripped the Sinn Fein Ard Fheis when those four men came in."

But he went on to say: "I am glad I invited them there and I have no regrets."

Yes majority predicted

He was speaking on the penultimate day of campaigning for the referendum on the Good Friday agreement which sets out a new future for Northern Ireland.

Commenting on the likely outcome of the referendum, he predicted a clear majority for the yes camp on both sides of the border.

But he also insisted a runaway majority was not essential.

"51% is enough"

"Let's be straight-forward about this - this referendum requires 50% plus one, that's it," he said.

He accused the no campaign of belonging to the "old agenda" and said their days were numbered.

But he again refused to declare the violence which has dogged Northern Ireland for nearly 30 years was over.

But he said: "The noes are certainly saying the war isn't over. Let's prove them wrong."



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