Irish America was utterly critical to the success of the IRA ceasefire and the peace process Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams has written. He also revealed how he and Martin McGuinness approached the IRA to win acceptance of that ceasefire.
Writing in The Irish Times on the 20th anniversary of the 1994 IRA ceasefire Adams stated how Irish America played a critical role.
“Irish America was key to this. The peace process was also now on the agenda of the Clinton administration. A powerful group of Irish Americans had committed to campaign in the US for an end to visa restrictions for republicans; establishment of a Washington office to inform the US media and public on the peace process; to lobby for investment in the North and for the US to act as guarantors of any agreements. The fledgling Clinton administration had indicated positivity.
Adams stated the granting of a visa to former IRA leader Joe Cahill to come to America to brief Irish Americansv was critical.In the weeks before the ceasefire momentum was building.
"Events were now moving quickly. We had asked for a visa for Joe Cahill to travel to the US to brief Irish Americans on developments. This would test the Clinton administration’s commitment to the peace process in the face of what would prove to be strident British opposition. Fr Alec, US ambassador Jean Kennedy Smith, her brother senator Ted Kennedy and taoiseach Albert Reynolds spent long hours lobbying for a visa for Joe Cahill.
“On August 29th, in the face of strident British opposition, visas were granted to Joe Cahill and Pat Treanor to travel to the US. This demonstrated there would be a strong international focus in support of the Irish side in negotiations with the British.
Adams also described how the ceasefire came about in terms of the IRA agreeing to it.
“I reported to the Sinn Féin ard chomhairle that the final pieces of the jigsaw were coming together but we understood the ultimate decision on a cessation rested with the IRA. Martin McGuinness and I went to meet the IRA leadership again. Martin said the Hume/Adams initiative had given people hope, that more nationalists saw republicans making a real effort to build peace, that Irish nationalism was reasserting itself and that Sinn Féin was growing in strength.”
Adams stated the IRA ceasefire was the critical moment in the entire peace process.
People rightly remember the great political highs of the past two decades, be it the achievement of the Good Friday agreement, the St Andrews and Hillsborough agreements, the decision of Ian Paisley to share power or the decision by the IRA to leave the stage.
None of these or the other fundamental, political, social and constitutional changes which have been effected would have been possible without the difficult and risk-laden work undertaken by Albert Reynolds, Fathers Alec Reid and Des Wilson, John Hume, the Sinn Féin leadership and others such as Martin Mansergh, Seán Ó hUigínn, Niall O’Dowd, Ken Newell and Harold Good in the years before the 1994 cessation.”