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Thursday, May 28, 1998 Published at 13:48 GMT 14:48 UK


Bomber among Sinn Fein candidates for assembly

Gerry Adams in New York: he plans to stand for election

The political wing of the IRA has put forward its first candidates for the Northern Ireland assembly including a convicted bomber.

Gerry Kelly was sentenced to life in 1973 for a bomb attack on the Old Bailey and Scotland Yard police headquarters.

Then, 10 years later, he led 38 prisoners in an escape bid from the Maze prison in Northern Ireland.

A prison officer died during the breakout. Mr Kelly was later re-captured in Holland.

Putting Mr Kelly's name among the first 10 Sinn Fein candidates for the June 25 elections is likely to provoke outrage among loyalists.

The Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams is also among the initial list of names put forward.

One of the other candidates, Martina McIlkenny, campaigned against a Yes vote by republicans in the May 22 referendum.

She explained her decision to sit in a body she opposed: "I did have serious reservations but after meetings and talking to people I have come to see that this is the only way."

Sinn Fein first candidates announced on Thursday are:

  • West Belfast: Gerry Adams, Bairbre de Brun, Alex Maskey, Sue Ramsey and Michael Ferguson
  • North Belfast: Gerry Kelly, Martina McIlkenny
  • South Belfast: Sean Hayes
  • East Belfast: Joe O'Donnell
  • Lagan Valley: Paul Butler
Adams calls for emphasis on peace

In New York on Thursday, Mr Adams called for less emphasis on the decommissioning of weapons and more on preserving peace through the Good Friday agreement.

The Sinn Fein president was speaking at the start of a four-day tour of the United States, during which he will meet President Bill Clinton.

[ image:  ]
He said: "The most crucial thing is not some ritual of decommissioning but that the guns remain silent.

"The immediate task should not be to make a big issue of taking away what some see as an assurance of self-protection, and could easily be replaced anyway, but to convince the people that this is no longer necessary."

Mr Adams' comments followed calls from the representatives of loyalist paramilitaries that the IRA must make the first step in disarming.

Mr Adams, speaking at a Friends of Sinn Fein meeting attended by about 400 people, said: "The Good Friday agreement is the beginning. That's all it is, the beginning."

[ image: An amnesty will protect paramilitaries from prosecution]
An amnesty will protect paramilitaries from prosecution
Asked whether the IRA's arsenal would be decommissioned in line with the accord, he said: "Every commitment we made when we signed up for this agreement, we will honour."

Earlier, in a speech to the American-Irish Historical Society, Mr Adams said the peace agreement "commences with a view of consent and self-determination that no Irish republican could accept."

He added: "No other party has been asked to abandon its philosophy and analysis. Nor will we abandon ours and there is nothing in the document which compels us to do so."

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