Sinn Fein takes its time over peace plan: IRA plants two bombs on railway

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The Independent Online
GERRY ADAMS, the Sinn Fein president, yesterday lowered hopes of a speedy end to IRA violence, warning that 'there are no quick fixes'.

As if to emphasise his words, the IRA planted two bombs on a railway track at Brookwood station in Surrey, less than a mile from the Guards depot at Pirbright. Police received warnings and Army bomb disposal teams blew up the packages.

Meanwhile, there were ominous signs of a hardening of Unionist opposition to the joint peace initiative of the British and Irish governments. Last night Ulster Unionist members of Castlereagh council, on the outskirts of Belfast, unanimously voted to condemn the joint declaration, rejecting the position of their party leader, James Molyneaux, and aligning themselves instead with the Rev Ian Paisley.

The remarks of Mr Adams will deflate hopes that an end to the IRA campaign could be imminent. But at the same time all the indications are that Sinn Fein and the IRA are taking the Major-Reynolds joint declaration extremely seriously and studying it in depth.

Mr Adams said full consideration of the declaration would take some time and he was asking the Irish government for clarification on several aspects. He added: 'There are no quick fixes in this situation. The challenge facing all political leaders is to establish the basis for a lasting peace. Sinn Fein is totally committed to this, and it remains a personal and political priority for me. It is in this context that we are considering the declaration.'

The action of the British and Irish governments in addressing republican concerns on the key issue of self-determination in Ireland has put the IRA under extreme pressure. At one stage yesterday the Belfast Sinn Fein switchboard was jammed by calls from journalists demanding a republican response to the declaration.

The republican dilemma is that the two governments have responded directly to Sinn Fein's repeated calls for clarification of the issues. If the republicans reject what is seen as an eminently reasonable approach they will be widely blamed. They may well hope to open a dialogue with the two governments with the aims of clarifying positions and, if possible, extracting concessions. It is not known whether either government is prepared to go down such a path.

'Clarification' of aspects of the declaration could be supplied, but it is highly unlikely that any change could be considered to its most important paragraph, setting out that the Irish people have self-determination but only in a context of consent. No immediate British withdrawal is on offer; so the IRA is faced with the stark choice of accepting the principle of consent by the Ulster majority or fighting on in the hope that some future British government might change its mind.

Under the IRA's constitution a campaign can be called off by the organisation's army council, which has about eight members, and such a decision must be ratified by a convention of all senior IRA members.

James Molyneaux's Ulster Unionist Party, which does not see the declaration as a threat, was bolstered yesterday when the Government announced the creation of a Northern Ireland select committee at Westminster, something Mr Molyneaux has wanted for more than a decade.

Downing Street said the decision had been agreed before the declaration. Ulster Unionist MPs said it was 'small beer but the right signal'.

Mr Molyneaux's party secretary, Jim Wilson, yesterday denied a report that several members had resigned over the party's attitude. Mr Wilson said: 'We had only one lady who rang to say, 'Take me off your list.' We had a lot of callers expressing concern and alarm. But there is now a growing confidence in the performance of the Unionist MPs who are prepared to give the declaration a fair wind.'

IRA rulebook, page 2

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Leading article, letters, page 15

Andrew Marr, page 17

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