Three workers were shot by loyalist gunmen outside Sinn Fein's headquarters in west Belfast, in the wake of the murder of an RUC man in an IRA rocket attack and the critical wounding of a Catholic man in front of his four grandchildren. The escalating violence is casting a shadow over today's London meeting between John Major and the Albert Reynolds, the Republic's Prime Minister, as they continue to seek a definitive republican response to the declaration.
Cardinal Daly said undue delay in providing a reply was highly dangerous, but added that the current debate within republicanism was one of the most positive and hopeful developments for many years.
As one of the strongest clerical opponents of the IRA, Dr Daly's plea for peace is in itself unlikely to influence the minds of republican leaders. But his commentary on their options amounts to the clearest public airing yet of the considerations which will determine their decision. Although most of the public indications from the republicans have tended towards the negative, Dr Daly said he believed a significant number were sincerely committed to 'bringing the movement round to the peace option'.
The desire for peace in the wider community, including the grassroots republican community was overwhelming, he said, adding: 'There is a widespread conviction that republicans have now, as never before, an opportunity for peace with honour, and that there will never be a better opportunity.'
Dr Daly said the reaction of the American media to the recent visit by Gerry Adams, the Sinn Fein president, had been based almost entirely on the hope and promise of his delivering peace. This attitude would, he argued, change radically if peace was not delivered: 'Not only the American administration but almost the entire Irish-American community are emphatically insistent on the need for peace, and for peace now.'
Rejecting the Downing Street declaration would mean the republicans cutting themselves off definitively from Irish nationalist opinion and forfeiting American and international sympathy, the Cardinal said. 'They would have nowhere to go, no political future, no place in the shaping of a future for Ireland, no hope of any access ever to any political dialogue or to any sharing of political power.
'I can understand some of the concerns of republicans. They are suspicious; they feel they cannot trust Britain; they feel they cannot trust the Unionists. History makes their suspicions inevitable, but history changes peoples and their relationships.'
Dr Daly said any fair-minded person would agree the present British government had made significant movement towards recognising the legitimacy of Irish republicanism and accepting the principle of self-determination for the people of Ireland. The aim of a united Ireland was legitimate and noble, but could only be pursued by peaceful means and this could only effectively begin once violence ended.