Sinn Fein ready to accept Mitchell principles
Belfast-born David McKittrick has been reporting on Northern Ireland since 1971, He has written for the East Antrim Times, the Irish Times and was The Independent's Irish correspondent for many years. He is the author of several books including Making Sense of the Troubles (2000) and Lost Lives (1999).
Tuesday 21 May 1996
The announcement will be of some significance if Sinn Fein is admitted to the all-party talks due to begin in Belfast on 10 June. But the acceptance of the principles will be academic unless the IRA renews its ceasefire, since without this, Sinn Fein will be refused entry to the talks.
The six principles were enunciated in January in a report from former US Senator George Mitchell, who may be involved in chairing part of the talks. The Mitchell report said arms decommissioning in advance of talks was not realistic, suggesting instead that parties to talks should give six detailed assurances of their commitment to exclusively peaceful methods.
These included an absolute undertaking to employ peaceful means to achieve aims and a commitment to eventual verifiable total disarmament. Mr Adams yesterday dispelled the idea that these represented a problem for Sinn Fein, though he stressed that he was speaking only for that party and not for the IRA.
He said in a BBC interview: "I'll sign up to the Mitchell principles providing everyone else is doing it, and provided they're within the context of proper all-party talks, because all of those issues are entirely within Sinn Fein's public policy."
When the Mitchell report was published in January, Mr Adams welcomed it as a positive development. He and other Sinn Fein leaders have repeatedly said that the party hopes to see the end to all violence: the real issue is whether the IRA is prepared to echo such words, and to date it has not done so.
In a swift rejoinder, the Northern Ireland Office reiterated that in itself the move would not be enough to allow Sinn Fein into the talks. A spokesman said: "There has to be a ceasefire."
Mr Adams's move represents a clearing of the decks in advance of 10 June, since by embracing the principles he has removed from the Government one justification for excluding Sinn Fein from talks. Everything, however, continues to hinge on a renewed ceasefire.
Most observers believe that if there are any moves in the direction of a ceasefire they will come in the wake of the 30 May election which will give an indication of republican support.
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