Bruton moves to thaw relations with Sinn Fein

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The Independent Online
Ireland's new Taoiseach, John Bruton, yesterday softened his hard line on the disposal of paramilitary arms, in a move to ease his Fine Gael party's fraught relations with Sinn Fein.

Mr Bruton, who became head of a new three-party centre-left coalition on Thursday, said; "It is important to put the weapons out of commission to establish the peace process. But that has to be done in a measured and considerate way that understands where people are coming from."

His flexibility on the arms issue contrasted with his previous comments since the Provisional IRA ceasefire was announced. He was attending the Dublin castle forum for peace and reconciliation, where he met the Sinn Fein president, Gerry Adams.

Fine Gael policy on Northern Ireland, urging a rapprochement with Unionism alongside devolution was sharply criticised by Sinn Fein at an earlier session of the forum.

The Taoiseach said he had received a "very friendly" message from John Major congratulating him on his election, and would be talking with him by telephone this weekend. The appearance by the British ambassador, David Blatherwick, at yesterday's session underlined the thawing official contacts with Sinn Fein.

The forum heard submissions from business, trade union, US government and European Commission figures involved in reconstruction programmes. Martin Dummigan of the Northern Ireland committee of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions, said he did not want to offend US visitors, but complained: "People are flying in to Northern Ireland and telling us how the money is going to be spent. What I would like to hear is someone asking, `would you like a say in how it will be used?"