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Saturday, November 13, 1999 Published at 16:27 GMT


UK: Northern Ireland

Adams urges new leadership style

Gerry Adams: Unionism is no longer a monolith

Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams has called for a new style of leadership in David Trimble's Ulster Unionist Party to bring about a positive conclusion to the Northern Ireland peace talks.

Mr. Adams told the party's annual women's conference in Dublin on Saturday that republicans should not underestimate the challenges facing unionists.

He said some unionists had faced up these challenges with courage and that unionism was no longer a monolith.

He was speaking the day after former US senator George Mitchell adjourned the talks to allow parties time to reflect.

Unionists 'reluctant and hesitant'

The chairman of the review decided to adjourn the talks until Monday following a day of confusion over whether the Ulster Unionists had rejected a deal tabled by Sinn Fein on Thursday.

He said said unionist leaders seemed to approach developments in "a reluctant and hesitant way" while republicans appeared to move in "a more decisive and progressive" manner.

A fear of change in the unionist camp placed "a huge burden" on any unionist leadership that wanted to plot a course into the future, he said.

But he added: "The leadership itself has to be for change. "It has to be prepared to give political leadership in a way that is totally different from the leaderships of the past.

"The leadership of the UUP may resent me for saying this. They may feel that I am patronising them but I think I have a right to say this because I am not asking them to do anything that the Sinn Fein leadership has not done."

Genuine effort

Mr Adams was "bitterly disappointed" with Thursday's rejection by the Ulster Unionists of proposals drawn up during the review, aimed at overcoming the row over unionist demands for IRA disarmament before formation of a power-sharing government in Northern Ireland.

"We stretched ourselves and our constituency to the limit in a serious and genuine effort to end the difficulties," said the West Belfast MP.

"But when it came down to it, all of our efforts were rejected in just 20 minutes on Thursday afternoon.

"Maybe the UUP were only negotiating. Maybe they just don't know when to stop saying no.

Maybe it's just too big a jump for them to take. Maybe the real and genuine difficulties which they face cannot be overcome. Maybe they're aren't up to it. It is hard to know."

However, Mr Adams revealed the two parties had managed better discussions during the review and had come to understand each other's positions better.

"Many republicans who have never spent one minute of one hour in negotiations with the British or the unionists are frustrated at the lack of progress. That is understandable.

"In many ways it is good that the Sinn Fein negotiating team is answerable to an impatient activist base.

"We know that a leadership has to lead. Let's hope that when Monday comes that the Unionist Party leadership will do just that."

He hoped that by Monday, the reflections by unionists would have brought them to "the only possible conclusion".

"And that is that the only way forward is to work with the rest of us in shaping a new future and a new beginning for all sections of our people."



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