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Dublin to discuss Ulster peace plan

THE TAOISEACH, Albert Reynolds, yesterday signalled that his government was taking seriously the peace initiative involving John Hume of the SDLP and Gerry Adams of Sinn Fein.

Speaking after receiving a briefing from Mr Hume in Dublin, Mr Reynolds indicated that a document presented by the SDLP leader would be discussed by the Irish cabinet next week.

Mr Hume, clearly pleased with the reception he received from Mr Reynolds and the Irish foreign affairs minister Dick Spring, said they had closely questioned him, and he had briefed them on a strategy for peace which he now believed existed.

The Irish ministers said in a statement that they would 'evaluate carefully the position conveyed to them, and consult with the government, with a view to ensuring that it can make a very important contribution towards building a consensus for peace'.

The Dublin response was welcomed by Mr Adams, who said he felt the statement's emphasis was right. Speaking in Dublin, the Sinn Fein leader said republicans were prepared to deal with realities, and one reality was that a sizeable minority of people were Unionists. They had no right to a veto over progress, but their fears had to be addressed.

But Mr Reynolds made it clear last night that the report handed to the Dublin government by Mr Hume on his talks with Mr Adams would not be submitted to Britain.

The Dublin view is that Mr Hume's exploration of the Sinn Fein mind is one of a number of avenues being investigated, another one of which is the continuation of contacts with the British government on the possibility of restarting talks, including northern parties other than Sinn Fein.

However, the Rev Ian Paisley, leader of the Democratic Unionists, has ruled out talks until a number of conditions, including the ending of Mr Hume's contacts with Sinn Fein, are satisfied. He has been joined by the Ulster Unionist Party leader James Molyneaux, who said talks were impossible while the contacts lasted.

Irish ministers and Mr Hume said yesterday they intended to keep the document confidential. The signs are that it is viewed as the beginning of a process with potential for development, rather than any detailed blueprint for immediate peace moves.

The Ulster Defence Association, the loyalist terrorist group which killed a 20-year-old Catholic man in a Belfast bar on Tuesday, yesterday threatened to intensify violence against the nationalist community 'while their representatives in the pan-nationalist front negotiate over the heads of the loyalist people'.

Mr Hume's deputy, Seamus Mallon, said his party would not be deterred by threats.