'Talk to IRA' - Irish PM

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The Independent Online
THE IRISH Prime Minister came under fire from the British Government last night after he made a demand for all-party talks on the future of Northern Ireland.

John Bruton was rebuked after he told a meeting in London that John Major should compromise on his demands for the immediate decommissioning of IRA arms and begin all-party talks on a settlement in Northern Ireland.

Speaking in London, the Taoiseach said: "It is time to take the next step for peace."

The Irish government has put undisclosed "specific proposals" to Downing Street designed to break the log-jam in moving to talks involving unionist and nationalist parties in the province.

Mr Bruton told a dinner of the Meath Association of London: "I recognise they may create difficulties for some because they are not preferred solutions. But unless we compromise from those preferred solutions we will not get around the table at all."

Mr Bruton's call, which intensified Irish pressure on Mr Major to begin the dialogue ahead of any agreement on IRA disarmament, astonished the Government.

A spokeswoman for the Northern Ireland Office said: "This is an extraordinary speech at an extraordinary time - the eve of Remembrance Sunday. We regret its thrust is that it is Britain that is holding up the talks. It was the Irish government which cancelled at a day's notice the summit agreement.

"The speech does not refer to more than one of the measures numbering over 100 which this Government has given to help the ceasefire."

t Addressing his party's Ard Fheis (annual conference) last night, the Fianna Fail leader Bertie Ahern criticised British handling of the arms issue, writes Alan Murdoch in Dublin. He said "It was a fundamental mistake to try to achieve paramilitary disarmament, before there was a guarantee of any political progress."

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