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Gerry Adams: DUP leader Arlene Foster should have told party 'back me or sack me'

Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams called for similar strategic thinking from unionists to that which led to the Good Friday Agreement
By Aine Fox, Press Association

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UNIONISM needs leadership of the kind it had two decades ago which led to the Good Friday Agreement, Gerry Adams has said.

DUP leader Arlene Foster should have given her party and followers an ultimatum to "back me or sack me" when she presented draft proposals in the latest round of power-sharing talks, the former Sinn Féin leader said.

Speaking about the talks which collapsed in February, Mr Adams said he believed Ms Foster had acted "in good faith" but allowed a unionist "rump" to reject what he described as a good deal.

He said: "What I think she failed to do when she went into her group was 'back me or sack me'.

"Because she had a good deal. It would've stretched us. Our leadership was up for going out and arguing and informing and persuading republicans that this was the way forward."

Mr Adams claimed the same people who opposed the latest draft deal were those who ousted Mrs Foster's predecessors Peter Robinson and the late Ian Paisley.

He suggested that unionist leaders privately accept change is coming on same-sex marriage and Irish language rights, some of the sticking points in political talks.

He said: "They will concede that the demographics in the north are changing. So they need to think to themselves, and I've said this directly to Arlene Foster, 'You need to make the union, if you believe in the union as much as you say you do' - and I've no doubt that they do - 'a friendly place, a warm place for gays, for lesbians, for single parents, for women, for ethnic minorities, for Irish language speakers, for nationalists. If you don't do that you're going to fail in your job'.

"And I say that as someone who wants to end the union and who, I believe, we will see the end of the union if we go about it properly."

He declined to reveal what Mrs Foster's response had been, "in fairness to her".

Mr Adams urged for similar strategic thinking from unionists to that of former UUP leader and first minister David Trimble.

"The sort of thinking that influenced them to be involved in the Good Friday Agreement in the first instance, the type of thinking which David Trimble and others have explained in their more lucid moments of the fact that the demographics in the north is changing, that there needed to be a new dispensation, in order to protect the union from their point of view.

"That's the sort of thinking that has to start to permeate unionists."

DUP Lagan Valley MP Sir Jeffrey Donaldson dismissed criticism of his party leader.

"Sinn Féin have seen that the DUP is not pushover unionism and that we will hold out until we are convinced that an agreement is right and that it is right for everyone in Northern Ireland.

"The position of the DUP is very clear on this and a position supported right across the party, what was on the table recently was not acceptable to the DUP and it needs to change."

There was also criticism of Mr Adams yesterday after an interview with German magazine Der Spiegel in which he said violence can sometimes be justified to reach political aims.

Asked how he reconciled his Catholic faith with the use of violence, he said “it’s still my view that the use of armed actions in the given circumstances is a legitimate response".

"Whether you exercise that right is another issue. And of course, there were many things that the IRA did which were wrong. And I both condemned at the time and deplore and regret it to this time."

UUP leader Robin Swann MLA said the comments "pose very real and serious questions for the current Sinn Féin leadership of Mary Lou McDonald and Michelle O’Neill as to whether or not they agree with them, and what role and influence Gerry Adams still has in the party".

Alliance MLA Kellie Armstrong said "violence is never the answer and murder can never be justified”.

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