Republicans mocked the reports, some of which had suggested that the IRA could perform a U-turn on the question of arms decommissioning, handing in some weapons in an attempt to gain admittance to multi-party political talks.
They also denied suggestions that the IRA would call an "army convention" - one of the rarely held gatherings which has the authority to make decisions on major issues. One Sunday report suggested that a convention could be the prelude to a permanent cessation, while another said the initiative had come from hardliners who wanted to step up violence.
Sinn Fein's president, Gerry Adams, speaking in Dublin, described the reports as rubbish. He added: "The first I heard of it ... was when I heard it through the media. You have to ask why British military intelligence are putting out these speculative reports. It is to cause confusion in republican ranks, and it is entirely unhelpful at this time."
Last week the Irish Taioseach, John Bruton, referred on a visit to the United States to the possibility of a new ceasefire. When pressed, however, Irish government sources said this had been a hope not an expectation.
The newspaper reports were received with surprise in many quarters, since the general assumption is that the IRA and Sinn Fein, in common with many Northern Ireland politicians, are casting their eyes forward to beyond the next British general election. The widespread feeling is that another republican ceasefire at this point would remove much of their leverage and would therefore weaken their position in advance of negotiations with the next British government.
t Conservative backbenchers, led by Sir Gerard Vaughan, MP for Reading East, are asking the House of Commons Speaker, Betty Boothroyd, to stop Gerry Adams using a room in the Palace of Westminster to launch his autobiography, Before the Dawn. Mr Adams is entitled to use the room because he was MP for West Belfast between 1983 and 1992. However, the fact that he never took his seat or made the oath of allegiance makes him "unfit" to benefit from the privilege, the MPs say.Reuse content