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Adams sets sights on next general election

By Shaun Connolly, Political Correspondent
SINN FÉIN president Gerry Adams insisted that republicans had turned their back on violence for good as he used his Árd Fheis address to focus on the next Dáil election battle.

Demanding the IRA’s commitment to the peace process be matched by Unionist leaders, his speech also pushed the need for social justice and economic reform in the Republic.

Mr Adams acknowledged that some republicans were unhappy with the IRA’s decision to end its armed campaign.

The SF president insisted "the war is over" but said he had huge reservations over the way Dublin and London were approaching talks to restore power sharing in the North and refused to accept any "dilution" of the Good Friday Agreement.

"The decisions by the IRA were undoubtedly deeply difficult for many. There are republicans still trying to come to terms with it many months later. Indeed, undoubtedly there are some who believe the IRA has made a mistake. They are entitled to their opinion but to no more than that," Mr Adams said.

He accused London and Dublin of pandering to the DUP and, in a pointed challenge to Ian Paisley, asked: "Are you ready to begin the process of building a shared future? The imperative of conflict resolution begs another question of Ian Paisley - Ian, is your war over?"

Much of the speech was squarely addressed at voters in the Republic ahead of the general election expected next year.

He pledged that Sinn Féin was the best positioned party to build a fair and equal society in tandem with a successful economy.

He warned the country should not be judged on its wealth, but on the quality of public services for its citizens.

Mr Adams promised to up taxes for "fat cats" and accused the Government of squandering taxpayers’ money.

In a cutting swipe at other parties over planning corruption, Mr Adams said it was ironic that many bribes were paid in a central Dublin pub close to where Padraig Pearse surrendered after the 1916 Rising.

"For many of these people, they probably think of the GPO only as a place to buy brown envelopes," he said.

Mr Adams said he believed a military parade of 2,500 soldiers down O’Connell Street was the wrong way to mark the 90th anniversary of the rising.

Taoiseach Bertie Ahern used a speech to Fianna Fáil’s youth wing to condemn Sinn Féin’s criticism of the military parade.

"There is only one Óglaigh na hÉireann - the Irish Army - who will take their rightful place in the parade to celebrate the legacy they have inherited," he said.

Responding to a call yesterday by Mr Adams for Britain to withdraw its troops from the North, Fine Gael defence spokesman Billy Timmins said: "It would be good to see security forces off the streets in the North, but Sinn Féin/IRA must take responsibility for the length of time it took them to fulfil their commitments."

Guest speakers included Micheál Ó Seighin of the Rossport Five group and Dunnes Stores worker Joanne Delaney, who was sacked because she wore a union badge.

Also in attendance were Colombia Three members Jim Monaghan, Niall Connolly and Martin McCauley.