IRA may talk about peace

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The Independent Online
GERRY Adams, the Sinn Fein leader, yesterday raised hopes of an end to the IRA's campaign of violence.

In a declaration which will increase the prospects for a peace deal in Northern Ireland, he said he was seeking a package to put to the IRA. This is seen in some quarters as the clearest indication yet that republicans may be serious about entering negotiations.

Mr Adams told the Independent On Sunday: 'This is one of the best opportunities for peace since what are now called the Troubles began in 1968. The onus is on the British government not to be blinkered and to try to move forward on this.'

If a package could be produced, Mr Adams said, he was prepared to put it to the IRA. He was seeking one that would allow him to make 'definitive proposals' to the IRA about its campaign of violence.

These and other comments by Mr Adams have increased interest in the process begun in private talks between him and the SDLP leader, John Hume.

Mr Humeis due to meet the Taoiseach, Albert Reynolds, and the Irish foreign minister, Dick Spring, this week to brief them on the 'considerable progress' he believes has been made.

The Irish government will want to know the exact grounds on which the SDLP leader bases his optimism that progress can be made. Dublinis then expected to make contact with the Northern Ireland Secretary, Sir Patrick Mayhew, who has indicated that he will consider any matters put to him by the Irish government.

There has been condemnation from many quarters of the fact that the IRA continues to carry out bombings while its political representative, Mr Adams, speaks of peace. Last week Unionist politicians launched a barrage of opposition to even the idea of Sinn Fein being involved in any form of contacts.

Their fear is that the price demanded for any end to republican violence would include concessions that would be unacceptable to Unionists.

Those who believe, on the other hand, that the initiative is worth exploring will draw encouragement from Mr Adams's comments, which appear to provide evidence of fresh republican thinking. 'Whatever agreement we come up with has to be an agreement that Unionists, like the rest of us, can give their allegiance to. They have to be part of it and have to feel that it accommodates them,' he said.

'The broad next phase is that both governments have the opportunity to give these matters their consideration. The response of the British government to date has been a matter of concern. Mayhew has been arrogant, clumsy and gratuitously insulting. Their policy is in absolute tatters.

'Where are they going? Are we going to face into the next century, when other apparently intractable conflicts throughout the world are being resolved, with Britain still propping this place up with British soldiers and subventions?'

Asked whether Sinn Fein was prepared to compromise, he said: 'The fact that I have agreed a number of statements with Mr Hume, which are not in language that would normally be part of the republican

vocabulary, indicates a willingness on Sinn Fein's part to look at other points of view and to look at other ways forward. Now it's very much over to the British government.'

The IRA last night admitted responsibility for a series of terrorist bomb attacks in north London early on Saturday in which five people were slightly hurt.