The announcement precipitated intense Irish government pressure on the IRA to deliver a permanent cessation of violence rather than the widely predicted three-month temporary ceasefire.
A spokesman for Albert Reynolds, the Taoiseach, stressed: 'The republican movement must understand a three- month ceasefire is not something we would welcome. It is absolutely imperative they go for a permanent end to
violence.' The official Irish view is that a temporary ceasefire will lead only to more and more pressure on republicans from both Irish and American sources, whereas 'all things would start to follow' if a final end to the IRA campaign were declared. 'This is the high-water mark for them (the Provisionals). They should really grab it and say it's over.'
Dublin is deeply concerned that the Provisionals may raise the political temperature before a temporary ceasefire with Heathrow-type 'spectaculars', leaving a 'calling card' warning of a potential threat.
The Irish government is also aware of the danger a temporary ceasefire would pose to its plan for a forum for national reconciliation, which would allow Sinn Fein an entry into constitutional politics. 'You don't get into a forum on that basis. You would know that on a given night they're going to come back with a bang. The Irish government would look like they're conniving with madmen,' a government spokesman said.
Earlier, Dublin responded with annoyance to the call from Sir Patrick Mayhew, Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, for it to abandon its constitutional claim to sovereignty over the whole island.
In an interview with the Daily Telegraph yesterday he said there 'has got to be something much more positive than a broad assertion from Dublin if Unionists are going to have their fears allayed. What Unionists are looking for . . . is an abandonment of the (Irish) territorial claim expressed in terms that don't need a lawyer to tease out the true meaning.'
The Irish Foreign Minister, Dick Spring, said he was surprised at Sir Patrick's comments, emphasising that last Friday's meeting in Brussels between John Major and Mr Reynolds showed both hoped to achieve 'a balanced accommodation within a matter of months'.
Dublin sources warned of the danger of anticipating the result of an Irish constitutional referendum to amend the claim without balancing changes to the Government of Ireland Act, which underpins British control of Ulster.
Mr Reynolds said yesterday: 'What we're seeking is a balanced constitutional amendment as expressed in the (Downing Street) peace declaration, not some constitutional one-way street.' The Taoiseach firmly believes the Irish electorate will back amendments to the claim only in return for a clear quid pro quo from the British side. Senior Irish sources said it would be disastrous if an ill-prepared proposal was rejected.
The demands set out by Sir Patrick were reinforced by Downing Street, increasing the difficulties between Dublin and London over agreeing a formula for a long-term settlement.
The two governments have had to postpone the production of a framework document on the future of Northern Ireland until the autumn, because of difficulties over the Irish territorial claim.
A British government source said: 'It has to be one which is satisfactory to Dublin and satisfactory to London. It is a statement of the plainest common sense. Sir Patrick was laying out the Unionists' demand that it is essential that the territorial claim is modified.
'We are not saying that Dublin does not have requirements as well. It is for Dublin to state its requirement and for London to state its requirements.'
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