February 5, 2015 / 3:28 PM / 3 years ago

Ignoring Greeks' plight will fuel far right - Sinn Fein's Adams

Sinn Fein's Gerry Adams arrives at Stormont House with party colleagues to take part in talks concerning disputes on flags, parades, the past and welfare reform, in Belfast. December 11, 2014Cathal McNaughton

DUBLIN (Reuters) - Europe and the "undemocratic" European Central Bank risk fuelling the growth of right wing parties across the continent if they ignore the will of the Greek people, Gerry Adams, leader of Ireland's leftist Sinn Fein said on Thursday.

The new Greek government's hopes of renegotiating its debt pile have been doused by its euro zone peers this week and the ECB pulled its funding line for Greek banks.

Adams, whose party has seen its support surge during Europe's debt crisis and who is close to new Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, warned Europe there were far more dangerous alternatives to Syriza, Sinn Fein or Spain's Podemos.

"The effect will be that more and more people will be politicized as part of that experience. Something has to give," Adams told Reuters in an interview in his office in Ireland's parliament. "What has been proposed is eminently sensible, it isn't hardline, it isn't ultra-left.

"If you're not about trying to bring about the basis where people feel as equals, you'll get the growth of right wing parties and that's more dangerous," Adams said.

While the popularity of left-wing parties like Sinn Fein has grown during Europe's financial crisis, so too has support for a range of parties from the National Front in France to Greece's Golden Dawn, which won 17 seats in last month's elections.

Sinn Fein has gone from having five of the 166 seats in Ireland's parliament before the 2008 financial meltdown to being the most popular party in some opinion polls, threatening the biggest shake-up of politics in generations.

While Ireland's economy likely grew faster than any other in Europe at almost five percent last year, Adams doubted it would trickle down to most voters come elections next year.

"We shouldn't underestimate how politicized people have become by the experiences of the last 10 years," he said, sitting beneath two framed Gaelic soccer jerseys, one from north of the Irish border and one south, reflecting his ultimate goal of uniting the island of Ireland.

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Adams, who was banned from even speaking on Irish television two decades ago when Sinn Fein was the political wing of the Irish Republican Army, said his party wanted to be in government.

With even the most bullish polls giving them a quarter of seats in a fragmented parliament, Adams would face having to secure a deal with one of the country's two large center-right parties, Fine Gael and Fianna Fail.

Sinn Fein has ruled out governing as a junior partner to either and Adams said his party would be incompatible with Prime Minister Enda Kenny's Fine Gael party in any kind of coalition.

Although describing the ECB's actions this week with Greece as "undemocratic" and "almost macho", he assured Brussels that although Sinn Fein is a critic of the European Union, it would not look to pick a fight if it entered government.

"We are very critical of the fact that it's governed by unelected commissions. We think a different, social European Union is possible, that power has to go from Brussels back into the member states," said Adams, 65, who has led the party for over 30 years.

"We're not about confrontation, we understand the need to stand firm on certain basic principles but are also pragmatic."

He also moved to reassure investors in Ireland - some of whom employ over 100,000 people in the thriving multinational sector - that they had nothing to fear from Sinn Fein despite its calls to keep some of the country's banks in state hands and tax higher earners.

"Sinn Fein is pro-enterprise. You cannot develop the kind of prosperous society we want to see where you look after the vulnerable unless you have a strong economy. And the economy is driven in the main by people with get up and go," Adams said.

Editing by Mike Peacock

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