Noel Thompson (NT) interviews Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams (GA) about his meeting and hand shake with Charles Windsor during the recent royal visit. Thanks to TPQ transcriber who delivers so much for our readership.
BBC Radio Ulster
Good Morning Ulster
20 May 2015
(begins time stamp ~ 2:05:40)
NT: That handshake between Prince Charles and the Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams features in most of the papers in Ireland and Britain today and we can talk to Mr. Adams now. Good Morning, to you!
GA: Good Morning.
NT: It's four years since the Queen visited The Republic. At that time you said the visit was premature and you expressed disappointment that she hadn't given an explicit apology for British involvement in Irish affairs. What has changed in that time to allow you to shake hands with Prince Charles?
GA: Well, I think her remarks, her visit to the Garden of Remembrance, her acknowledgment of the past and of eh...
NT: But Mr. Adams, when the Queen left after that visit you said she'd left disappointment behind her by not apologising.
NT: Now you're saying she did.
GA: Well, she did express regret for what had occurred and I think what she said, and particularly the picture of her at the Garden of Remembrance paying homage to those who had been executed by a previous British government for their part in The Uprising ...
NT: ...I'm sorry, Mr. Adams, you said none of this at the time.
GA: Excuse me – Martin McGuinness went on to meet with Queen Elizabeth both in Belfast and in...(cross-talk)
NT: ...I do appreciate that. But just to - what you said was: she'd left disappointment by not apologising. Now you're saying that in retrospect your view of the 2011 visit was that she did everything that might have been expected of her.
GA: Well, there is a big issue outstanding and I met yesterday with Prince Charles. And that is, particularly within my own community of Ballymurphy and Springhill, where sixteen people were killed by the Parachute Regiment and that includes three children, includes a mother of eight, two Catholic priests and ten local men - six others I think killed up the New Lodge Road - the outstanding business of the Dublin-Monaghan bombings. Now, we had this out yesterday and I also reflected on the, as did Martin McGuinness, on what happened on Bloody Sunday and the great loss suffered by the British royal family - and particularly by Prince Charles and by the Maxwell Family whose son, Paul, was killed at Mullaghmore. So ...
NT: ...Did you mention the Narrow Water bombing which killed eighteen soldiers on that day as well. Was that discussed?
GA: No, it wasn't. But we reflected on all of those and we, I think, had a common view that there should be no hierarchy and that thankfully, the conflict's over. But all of those victims and survivors of the conflict who still seek justice need to have that justice. And if our meeting yesterday did anything I would like to think it assisted this process. And the governments and the political parties, I think, are duty-bound to build upon that because reconciliation is - it's a personal process, I suppose, of dialogue and engagement and compromise and getting to know someone. So as we, as we seek to face up to those very immediate problems facing the political institutions, and they are multiple challenges, it would be, I think. incumbent upon us all to build upon the opportunity....
NT: ...Yeah and yet your party, Mr Adams, voted very strongly at the Ard Fheis this year to ban any royal or British government presence at the 1916 Commemoration. So is that a contradiction?
GA: No, not at all. and I don't think it's an issue either, Conor, I love how you go into the negative in this interview. I don't think it's a contradiction anyway but that isn't an issue...
NT: ...reconciliation and getting to know each other - it's Noel here by the way, Mr. Adams.
GA: Sorry, Noel. (laughs)
NT: You talk about reconciliation – you talk about getting to know each other and yet here you have a major set-piece at which your party says there will be no British royal or government presence.
GA: Well, first of all the issue of whether there should be British royal presence at the commemorations for nineteen and sixteen was already settled before the Ard Fheis – the Motion came into the Ard Fheis and was discussed and it is the view of Sinn Féin, as the majority of people, that it would be inappropriate. and I actually think that the British royal family recognise that, at what was a Republican uprising that there should be royalty.
Now having said that – I mean, let's look forward Noel – I didn't realise it was you but that maybe explains the tone of the interview, Noel - let's look forward. The fact is an awful lot of people have been hurt. An awful lot of people have been killed. We have a process of peace making which is unprecedented and has made huge ground. And there have been many, many achievements and many, many successes down to all of the people involved. But it isn't finished. It isn't done until we can have working institutions which aren't under threat.
So let me say as I said yesterday: there's now a peaceful way to end partition. There's a peaceful way to end The Union and for those who want a united Ireland - to bring that about - and it's incumbent upon everybody who says they believe in a united Ireland to reach out, to embrace and to make friends with our neighbours. and I like to think that our participation – and it was a big thing for Charles – it was a big thing for us also - at that meeting yesterday as a measure of our commitment to, to resolve legacy issues
NT: And, and ...
GA: ... on the one hand but also to build a future based on equality.
NT: Yeah. And to those commentators who say that it's not so much about reconciliation as about convincing certain parts of the Irish electorate that you're not, and this is not my word, not “toxic” potential partners in government?
GA: Well, I don't think Prince Charles is standing for election.
NT: You know exactly what I mean, Mr Adams.
GA: Well, you see we are in government. And of course there is partitionism across this island but the people will decide – thankfully – the people will decide who's fit to be in government or not. And yesterday was not a process aimed at doing anything other than having the greatest potential out of a visit by a member of the British royal family. And for the Sinn Féin leadership - and by the way, the decision for us to attend was taken by the Sinn Féin Ard Chomhairle so Republicans – while some may have difficulties around some of these issues – Republicans democratically reached out and decided that it would be appropriate for us to meet as we did.
NT: Mr Adams
GA: So I think it was a good thing to do. I'm glad I did it. Martin McGuinness and Trevor Ó Clochtartaigh are glad we did it. And I'm quite sure (and I can't speak for him) that Prince Charles is glad he did it as well.
NT: Mr. Adams, thank you very much indeed. (end time stamp ~ 2:12:45)