State Papers

Gerry Adams was 'dispensable' and 'no Mandela', Ken Maginnis told Bill Clinton adviser

Today sees the release of hundreds of previously secret government files in Belfast and Dublin. From confidential discussions about paramilitary killings and the 1994 ceasefires, to cross-border and transatlantic diplomatic rows, they shed light on key events during the Troubles and emerging peace process. Reports by political historian Dr Éamon Phoenix and the Press Association

Gerry Adams was described by a senior Ulster Unionist as 'no Mandela'. Picture by Niall Carson, Press Association
Dr Éamon Phoenix

GERRY Adams had not "sold" the IRA ceasefire to "hard men in south Armagh", a senior Ulster Unionist told a US official several weeks after the paramilitary group's cessation of violence.

During a meeting between a UUP delegation and US President Bill Clinton's Northern Ireland adviser Nancy Soderberg in September 1994, MP Ken Maginnis said the IRA "enjoyed very limited support".

The IRA had announced a ceasefire just weeks before on August 31.

In a memo sent to the NIO by a British official in Washington, Peter Westmacott, he said Mr Maginnis told Ms Soderberg that Mr Adams "was on a short leash and was dispensable".

Mr Maginnis claimed Mr Adams "had not sold the ceasefire to the hard men in south Armagh as a possible end to violence", the memo read.

"They saw it rather as a chance to rebuild the IRA’s political base after a series of reverses."

The MP told Ms Soderberg Sinn Féin would adopt a strategy of civil disobedience and confrontation as a means of keeping pressure on the British government.

Mr Maginnis added that the IRA had limited support and Mr Adams was "no Arafat or Mandela".

The memo noted that Ms Soderberg made clear the White House wanted to keep Mr Adams "moving forward while making it increasingly difficult for the IRA to go back to violence".

The Ulster Unionist delegation, led by David Trimble, told Ms Soderberg that DUP leader Ian Paisley had to be "kept in play", the memo read.

Asked about Mr Paisley's planned visit to the US that October, Mr Trimble and Mr Maginnis said it was "important not to humiliate him any further".

"Paisley the martyr could attract a lot of sympathy," the delegation said.

"In terms of diplomatic ranking they said there should be 'nothing at the White House for Paisley'."

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