End to ceasefire hope

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The Independent Online
Both the motorway disruption and the statements of republican spokesmen in Belfast appear to indicate that the recent predictions of an imminent IRA ceasefire are unfounded.

There has been much media conjecture that the IRA might call a halt to its campaign of violence in order to help maximise the Sinn Fein vote in the election, given that the party claims to have a chance of winning three seats.

It has been speculated that republicans believe a limited ceasefire would increase pressure on the next British government to do business with them, in the hope of building that into another complete IRA cessation.

The official position, as spelt out by Sinn Fein chairman Mitchel McLaughlin yesterday, is as follows: "The political conditions have not been created to justify all this media speculation being pumped out. Because that's all it is, speculation. Obviously the IRA will make their own decision, but I would be very, very surprised if there was any unilateral initiative in the current circumstances."

Such Sinn Fein pronouncements have in the past proved accurate guidelines as to future IRA actions. One republican source said yesterday: "You can rest assured there'll be no leap in the dark. There was a leap in the dark in August '94, and it didn't work. There's not going to be another one."

At the moment, the IRA is waging a comparatively low-key campaign. It has been noted that its last two attacks in Britain, at Wilmslow railway station and yesterday on the motorway system, have been designed to cause disruption rather than to take life. The IRA is such a calculatedly unpredictable organisation, however, that it is impossible to say whether such an approach will continue.