IRA threat `not a definitive response'

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The Independent Online
DAVID McKITTRICK

Ireland Correspondent

Recent hardline statements from the IRA on its readiness to wage another 25 years of war do not represent the organisation's definitive response to the setting of a date for all- party talks, according to republican sources.

But although that response remains to be delivered, recent comments mean that optimism about the prospects for another ceasefire is at a low ebb in Belfast and Dublin.

The warnings that the IRA is ready for prolonged conflict, together with its now repeated assertions that there will be no decommissioning of weapons, has reduced hopes of early progress.

An IRA spokesman, quoted in the latest edition of Republican News, said: "We see the necessity for armed struggle because, given current political conditions, there is not the necessary dynamic to move us all away from conflict and towards a lasting peace on the basis of a viable process."

An increasingly frequent theme of republican pronouncements has been more open criticism of the Irish Taoiseach, John Bruton, alongside more familiar allegations of British bad faith and duplicity.

Republicans envisaged the peace process as drawing momentum from a potentially powerful coalition of Irish nationalist interests, headed by the Irish government and including Sinn Fein, the SDLP, and Irish-Americans. The charge against Mr Bruton is that he would not take part in such a grouping.

Sinn Fein had indicated that setting a date for all-party talks would make a renewed IRA ceasefire more likely, but their disillusionment with both Mr Bruton and Mr Major suggests the IRA is highly sceptical that it can do business while the two leaders remain in power.

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