Adams accuses British of double-dealing

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THE IRA offered the British government a two-week ceasefire this year following an official request for intensive negotiations between the Government and the republican movement, according to the Sinn Fein president, Gerry Adams.

Mr Adams made the claim yesterday as he accused the Government of telling lies and of counterfeiting part of the correspondence which this year passed between the IRA and Sir Patrick Mayhew, Secretary of State for Northern Ireland.

He claimed that Sir Patrick, who at the weekend dropped denials that the Government had been in contact with Sinn Fein, was continuing to mislead MPs and the British public about the nature and extent of the contacts.

Mr Adams said the confidential channel of communication with the Government had existed for two full decades and had been used on numerous occasions.

'To our knowledge it has never been abused until now by those who politically controlled it on the British side and it has never, ever been abused by the republicans.'

He claimed that as part of this year's exchanges the Government had proposed that a delegation should meet a Sinn Fein delegation for a protracted and intense round of discussions.

'We were told that such an intense period of negotiation would result in Irish republicans being convinced that armed struggle would be no longer necessary.' He said that Sinn Fein had been asked to seek a short suspension of IRA operations to facilitate such discussions.

According to the Sinn Fein president, the IRA had given a commitment that it would stage a two-week ceasefire to allow the discussions to take place, and that arrangements had reached the stage where venues and timescales were discussed.

The IRA's ceasefire message had been conveyed to the Government on 10 May, he said, but although he had been told this had been the subject of high-level meetings involving John Major, British ministers had not followed the proposal through.

'The bad faith and double-dealing involved in this clearly presents serious difficulties for us. It was clear from the early summer that the British Government had reneged on its proposal and the previous indications that it may have been actively seeking a way out of conflict.'

Mr Adams said he believed a change in approach had been caused at least in part by the parliamentary difficulties of the Government, which led them to depend on Unionist votes at Westminster.

A reference to such meetings appears in the documentation published yesterday by the Government in which details of the contacts with Sinn Fein are given. It says: 'We wish now to proceed without delay to the delegation meetings.' The authorities' response to this is not obvious in the documents.