Seeing difficult times ahead, Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams appealed to thousands of IRA supporters Sunday to accept Northern Ireland's compromise peace accord.
Adams' party, an ally of the Irish Republican Army, held commemorations in both parts of Ireland honoring the executed commanders of the 1916 Easter rebellion against British rule in Dublin.Sinn Fein's support is key to the success of the historic, 67-page peace settlement reached Friday among negotiators from eight parties in the British-ruled province.
In his first public engagement since the agreement, Adams traveled to one of the north's hotbeds of IRA support, the village of Carrickmore, where hail fell between sunbursts and a British army helicopter hovered overhead.
A half-dozen bands of young men and women marched through the village wearing black berets and Easter lilies, playing traditional anti-British tunes on fife, and chanting "I! I! I-R-A!"
In a half-hour speech, Adams said his negotiators had gotten all they could, and that in the talks' final hours Prime Minister Tony Blair had pushed the Ulster Unionist Party - which represents much of the north's pro-British Protestant majority - "much farther than the UUP wanted to go."
The deal will create a new Northern Ireland Assembly and establish a formal link between Northern Ireland and the rest of Ireland - but it still keeps the north firmly tied to Britain.
When asked what they thought of Friday's accord, many people lining the street in Carrickmore said they found little to suggest the north would ever be united with the rest of Ireland. Many thought it looked like an honorable retreat for the Catholic side.
"This agreement isn't worth the paper it was put on. It'll never work," said Dessie McGraw, a mechanic from the nearby town of Omagh.
He gestured to the vast army and police barracks on the edge of Carrickmore and the old bullet holes that speckle its high protective walls of corrugated iron.
"I'd say them holes won't be the last," he said, suggesting that the IRA's July 1997 truce wouldn't stand the test of time.
In the agreement, the British government pledged to reduce "the numbers and role of the armed forces deployed in Northern Ireland to levels compatible with a peaceful society." But it offered no specifics.