Adams holds back on joint declaration: Alan Murdoch finds concern at differences between Dublin and London

GERRY ADAMS, the leader of Sinn Fein, held back from a clear-cut endorsement of the Downing Street Declaration at his party's Ard Fheis (annual conference) at the weekend. But he emphasised that the door remained open to a republican ceasefire, and that the IRA would row in behind a package that embraced the main principles of the Hume-Adams initiative.

Mr Adams's continuing concern that London has a different interpretation to Dublin of the declaration was underlined yesterday in an interview on Irish radio.

He said he was satisfied with the clarification he had received from the Irish government, though there were still 'some matters to be teased out'.

He insisted the only people who could clarify the British position were the British themselves. And he claimed the reason the British were refusing to give clarification was 'in case it's different from that given by the Irish government'.

Although he agreed that the positions taken by the two governments had moved closer together, he said their earlier statements in the aftermath of the announcement on 15 December last year had been 'totally contradictory'.

In the same interview, Mr Adams argued that the British government had to go further in moving Unionists towards a compromise. So far, London had maintained that there could be no change without Unionist consent. 'They (Unionists) believe as they do because they don't have to change,' he said.

Mr Adams appeared to harden his stand against anything short of self-determination for the Irish people as a whole: 'The six-county state is not a unit of self-determination.' At the same time he said Sinn Fein was open to considering all models for the future government of Ireland.

In his conference address, he was careful to highlight the progress represented by the declaration. 'This effort to address republicans directly is a fundamental shift in policy.' He said it marked a small step in the 'slow and painful process of England's disengagement from her first and last colony'.

On the continuing republican campaign, he said he sympathised with all the families bereaved in the conflict 'and especially with the innocent victims of IRA actions'.

While he said he had made clear the Sinn Fein leadership's view of the Shankill Road bombing, to prolonged applause he added 'but our disapproval does not mean that I will abandon young volunteers or their families for the gratification of Fleet Street'.

(Photograph omitted)