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Gerry Adams quotes Bobby Sands and hails 'historic moment' at Basque peace conference

The former Sinn Féin leader was speaking at a Basque peace conference today.

Adams arriving at the conference today
Adams arriving at the conference today
Image: Alvaro Barrientos/PA Images

FORMER SINN FÉIN leader Gerry Adams has hailed a “historic moment for the people of the Basque country” at an international conference on the region’s peace process today.

Being held in the French Basque town of Cambo-les-Bains just a day after separatist group ETA announced a definitive end to its activities, Adams drew parallels with the situation in Northern Ireland in a speech with former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern also in attendance.

He said the Basque peace process is, like the Irish peace process, “an example of what is possible when people of goodwill never lose hope and never give up”.

Adams commended those who had worked to end the conflict in recent years, and singled out Father Alec Reid for particular praise.

“On a personal note, I want to remember my friend Father Alec Reid who played a pivotal role in the Irish peace process and then spent many years travelling her to help foster the conditions for the momentous progress we have witnessed in the past 24 hours,” he said.

In a letter yesterday, ETA said it had “completely dissolved all of its structures and declared an end to its political initiative”.

The group had waged a decades-long campaign for Basque independence, which had left hundreds dead. In 2011, however, it announced a permanent ceasefire and yesterday called a complete cessation to activities.

A major sticking point for the group has been the policy of both the French and Spanish to situate prisoners far away from their homes but Adams called on both governments today to “send a very positive signal of intent” by agreeing to transfer several hundred Basque prisoners to prisons closer to their homes.

He said: “This would not be a sign of weakness but a positive sign of compassion and compromise, especially to the families of those prisoners.”

Adams said that reconciliation, healing and dealing thoughtfully and compassionately with the past is a huge part of any conflict resolution process.

“People on all sides have been hurt. But anger is not a policy. Revenge is not an option,” he said.

Tomorrow is the anniversary of the death on hunger strike of Bobby Sands MP. Bobby once wrote; ‘Let our revenge be the laughter of our children’. That is my wish for the people of the Basque country and the Spanish state.

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Sean Murray

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