Sinn Fein dismisses Mayhew peace move

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SIR PATRICK MAYHEW, Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, suffered a double rebuff yesterday as Sinn Fein dismissed his plans to kick-start the peace process, and Dublin spoke of delaying the next Anglo- Irish summit.

However, Sinn Fein did hold out the possibility of the IRA participating in an international commission to oversee the decommissioning of its weapons.

In Dublin at a rally attended by more than 5,000 people, Gerry Adams, president of Sinn Fein said Sir Patrick's measures outlined on Friday, which included 50 per cent remission for paramilitary prisoners, were "totally inadequate". Speaking outside Dublin's General Post Office Mr Adams added: "If the British Government has its way it will let slip through its fingers, in the words of Sir Patrick Mayhew, a genuine opportunity for a fair and lasting peace."

"The British Government should not be allowed to misread the situation. We need to demand and ensure that London reacts as urgently to acts of peace as it did to acts of war," Mr Adams said.

The Irish government underlined its coolness towards the speech when Dick Spring, the deputy prime minister, said a firm date had still to be fixed for an Anglo-Irish summit which was expected to take place on 6 September. Mr Spring said it may have to be delayed until later in the month.

A Downing Street spokesman said: "If we can have it on 6 September, we will. If we can't, we won't - but that won't be the end of the world. There is no argument between the two governments."

The tension between London and Dublin appears to arise from earlier expectations of a breakthrough on decommissioning. Some officials had expected Friday's speech by Sir Patrick to be delivered by John Major, and had anticipated an announcement on an international commission to oversee the handing over of some IRA weapons.

Although the two governments seem far from an agreement, Sinn Fein was careful not to dismiss the concept out of hand. The party's chairman Mitchel McLaughlin said that if a practical programme was announced Sinn Fein "will look very, very carefully and seriously at it".

However he added: "We have also made it clear that if what we have is an arrangement for a back-door achievement of the British pre-condition of an IRA unilateral surrender of weapons, we will have nothing whatsoever to do with it and it will not work."

Mr McLaughlin said it would be "irresponsible" for Sinn Fein to turn down the commission idea before seeing the detail. But he added: "My understanding is that both governments are having considerable difficulty in framing these proposals."

James Molyneaux, leader of the Ulster Unionists, told a rally that he had predicted the IRA ceasefire in advance and made a further prediction: "Today I say to you favourable developments there will be, on a broad front."