The Irish government has decided to keep open a line of communication to Sinn Fein, while making clear that its relations with the republican party would be as arctic as possible without breaking off contact.
In doing so the Irish government reflected the unmistakable wave of public revulsion in the Republic against the recent violence. The cabinet decision was welcomed by the main opposition party, Fianna Fail, which has a proprietorial attitude towards the peace process, but was attacked by the smaller Progressive Democrats.
Fianna Fail's spokesman, Ray Burke, said it was important to encourage the Adams leadership towards fulfilling "a peace mandate," adding: "The only way forward is not to isolate, as we had for 25 years, but to build on the contacts that have been developed." He said Sinn Fein "must get to the table but they must have a permanent peace to get to the table".
But Mary Harney, the Progressive Democrats' leader, said: "I'm very disappointed. Today was the day to be tough. Are we waiting for another bomb, or for more people to be killed? There has been too much encouragement, too much cajoling of Sinn Fein."
Meanwhile, in the House of Commons John Major and Tony Blair united in putting pressure on Sinn Fein. The Prime Minister said it was a "moment of truth" for Gerry Adams. The Labour leader said the responsibility now lay with Sinn Fein to ensure the IRA ceased its violence.
In Dublin the Taoiseach, John Bruton, had earlier pressed for clear and convincing replies from Sinn Fein on whether it had "has gone to the IRA to ask for a renewed ceasefire, and if not why not." Mr Adams told Irish radio that "the question of what the IRA can or should do is something I am working on and will continue to work at". On support for the IRA he said: "Sinn Fein wants to see an end to the armed struggle. We are not involved in it. We do not advocate it."
The Royal Ulster Constabulary last night stepped up security measures in Northern Ireland in view of what it described as uncertainty over the future activities of paramilitary groups, in particular the IRA. Road checkpoints were mounted in and around Belfast and other districts on a scale not seen since before the IRA ceasefire of August 1994. In several provincial towns barricades which had of late been left open of late were locked.
The indications from security sources are that the measures are considered prudent in the wake of the IRA bomb attack on Manchester rather than being based on firm knowledge of the organisation's plans. Some weeks ago barricades were locked in a number of towns, but this proved a false alarm.
A brief RUC statement said: "In view of the recent uncertainty over the intentions of paramilitary groups, especially on the republican front, it has been necessary to increase anti- terrorist precautions throughout the province."Reuse content