Adams clarifies negotiating position: Sinn Fein president reveals more of the agreement with John Hume on Ulster peace process

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The Independent Online
SINN FEIN yesterday made intriguing disclosures about its position in the Northern Ireland peace process, as John Major again told the Commons that clarification of the Downing Street declaration was not on offer to the republicans.

It has been clear for some time that the Downing Street declaration, while it may bear some resemblance to the Hume-Adams agreement, will not be enough to bring about the IRA cessation which optimists had hoped for. At the same time, the Sinn Fein approach makes it clear that the republicans hope that non-acceptance of the declaration will not be the end of what they call 'the peace process'.

Mr Major said that Gerry Adams, the Sinn Fein president, was seeking to draw the Government into negotation on the declaration, which he had made jointly with Albert Reynolds, the Taoiseach. The Prime Minister insisted: 'We are not in the business of clarifying the declaration. The declaration is clear.'

He called on republicans to permanently end violence and then enter into exploratory talks which could lead to them taking a part in the democratic process. 'What is intended by Mr Adams in his present activities is to seek, bit by bit, to draw the Government into negotiation on the joint declaration.

'That is not on offer to Mr Adams now. It will not be on offer to Mr Adams in the future.'

Meanwhile, in Belfast, Mr Adams gave a general outline of some of the contents of the Hume-Adams agreement, which has been the object of much speculation in recent months. He said that its proposals included a number of basic principles, including Irish self-determination; that Unionists could not have a veto over British policy; and that the British Government must 'join the persuaders'.

He said it also contained a statement 'that the consent and allegiance of Unionists, expressed through an accommodation with the rest of the Irish people, are essential ingredients if a lasting peace is to be established'.

This confirms the important point that Hume-Adams contains the concept of Unionist consent, though the exact extent of the consent acknowledged by Mr Adams is not clear from what he detailed yesterday.

The Sinn Fein leader described the Downing Street declaration as being 'riddled with ambiguities, contradictions and confusion' and said there were differences between it and Hume-Adams in terms of 'principle, dynamic and process'.

Mr Adams said he was seeking a package which would allow him to make proposals to the IRA. He was quite confident the IRA would respond properly to a package such as Hume-Adams, but he added: 'Does anyone really expect the IRA to cease its activities so that British civil servants can discuss with Sinn Fein the surrender of IRA weapons, after we have been 'de-contaminated?' This is what John Major is demanding of me and he is threatening dire consequences if I do not acquiesce in his ultimatum.'