Adams says Sinn Fein may take part in poll

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GERRY ADAMS yesterday held out the prospect that Sinn Fein would participate in the May elections to the Northern Ireland forum proposed by John Major. He also called on a more active role from the Dublin government in "upholding the rights of citizens in the North".

The Sinn Fein president's assertion at the party's ard fheis (annual conference) in Dublin came despite an apparent rejection of the proposed elections by the IRA. "Our preference would be to boycott both the election and the elected body," he said.

Mr Adams told the 800 delegates that Sinn Fein would be guided by whether it was necessary to defend the party's vote. But he thought the Prime Minister's proposals were evidence of his concern to stay in power and to frustrate a meaningful restoration of the peace process.

"It took over 50 years for Stormont to be overthrown. There is no way that Sinn Fein will be party to any restoration of that kind of institution."

He also urged Taoiseach John Bruton to return to the role accepted by former Irish premier Albert Reynolds of Dublin acting as guarantor of the rights of Northern Ireland nationalists. "He has to represent the interests of the Irish nation and he must understand that the Irish nation extends beyond the state which he governs." Mr Bruton's failure to stand up to the British government had "eroded confidence in the peace process and contributed directly to the ending of the IRA cessation".

"The Dublin government has a moral and political imperative to uphold the rights of citizens in the North," he added.

In a statement on Friday an IRA spokesman warned that the proposed elections did not contain "the dynamic necessary to carry all parties forward into meaningful peace negotiations".

Party vice-president Pat Doherty acknowledged the atmosphere was one of "anger and frustration" and that Sinn Fein faced "a tough year". But he and other leadership speakers maintained the peace strategy was still viable. All stuck to the line that the ending of the ceasefire had been forced by British government and Unionist intransigence.