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I helped write crucial Gerry Adams peace process speech, says Tony Blair fixer Jonathan Powell

Jonathan Powell
Jonathan Powell

By John Spain

The key passages in one of the most important speeches made by Gerry Adams during the peace process were written for him by a top official in the British Government, it has been claimed.

The explosive revelation comes in a new book by the man who says he wrote the passages, Jonathan Powell. Powell was Tony Blair's chief of staff in Downing Street and played the leading role on the British side in negotiating peace in Northern Ireland.

In the book, Talking To Terrorists, which is published today, Powell says that he wrote the speech for Adams at a critical point in the peace process and that he did so at Adams' request.

Mr Adams added to the text provided by Mr Powell but the key passage in which Gerry Adams said he could see a future without the IRA was written by Powell.

Mr Powell says in the book that the Adams speech – a keynote address given by the Sinn Féin president at the Hillgrove Hotel in Monaghan on Saturday, October 26, 2002 – came at an absolutely critical time in the peace process.

The Good Friday Agreement, which had been signed in 1998, was in danger of collapse at the time because of the failure of the IRA to decommission.

"Constructive ambiguity made the Good Friday Agreement possible, but it became destructive over time," Mr Powell writes.

"We could have sat for three years rather than three days and nights (in 1998) if we had insisted on resolving the issue of decommissioning of IRA weapons there and then. The unionists and the republicans just weren't ready to reach an agreement on it. Instead we had to reach for language that could be interpreted in different ways by the two sides."

Mr Powell writes: "We felt that we had to address the ambiguity or lose the agreement, so Tony Blair made a speech in Belfast in which he demanded that Sinn Féin choose between the Armalite and the ballot box. We were nervous about the response but Adams called me a few days later and said, to our relief, it was a good speech. To my surprise he asked me if I would draft his response.

"I tried to write in republican-speak and composed a passage that ended with 'People ask me do I envisage a future without an IRA? The answer is obvious. The answer is yes'.

"I turned on the television a few days later to see Adams deliver the speech unchanged."

The full text of the lengthy Adams speech is available online on various websites.

Quote

"I want to see an end to all of the armed groups on this island. That has to be the aim of every thinking republican. So if you ask me do I envisage a future without the IRA? The answer is obvious. The answer is Yes. And who can influence the IRA most? The British government – the unionists – the Irish government and us as well of course. All of us have to make politics work."

A passage from the Gerry Adams speech which Jonathan Powell claims he wrote.

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