New blow for Ulster deal

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THE NORTHERN Ireland peace process suffered a fresh blow yesterday when the leader of the Ulster Unionists, James Molyneaux, said that the Downing Street Declaration had run its course.

Distancing himself further from December's Anglo-Irish peace initiative, Mr Molyneaux ruled out further development arising from the declaration. He told the Ulster Unionist Council: 'You can't hang much on a dead Christmas tree.'

Mr Molyneaux's comments, which follow his party's withdrawal from three-stranded talks involving the constitutional parties and the two governments, marks a hardening of the position in the run-up to the European elections on 9 June. The UUP faces pressure from the rival Democratic Unionist Party, led by Ian Paisley, which opposed the declaration from the beginning.

The increasingly tough line from the Unionists complicates the Government's task of filling a policy vacuum in the wake of the IRA failure to renounce violence and enter talks.

Mr Molyneaux, whose party is pressing for new political structures within Northern Ireland, rejected the notion of institutionalised north-south bodies with executive powers, and an extension of the role of the Anglo-Irish Conference. 'These outrageous proposals add up to joint authority,' he said.

The Irish Prime Minister, Albert Reynolds, restated his commitment to the declaration and told BBC Radio Ulster's Inside Politics programme yesterday that 'talk of an internal settlement is a waste of time' because neither the British nor the Irish governments would accept it.

And the Northern Ireland minister in charge of negotiation with the parties admitted on Channel 4's A Week in Politics that round table talks involving all sides to the Northern Ireland conflict will not take place for some time.

Meanwhile the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, Sir Patrick Mayhew, stepped up the pressure on Gerry Adams, president of Sinn Fein, who visited New York earlier this year.

Sir Patrick said: 'Only seven weeks since the publicity coup of Mr Adams's visit, resentment is now widespread and vocal, from the President downwards.

'The generosity of the visa gesture, and the willingness

to hear Mr Adams have been spurned. For all the carefully crafted talk of peace, only death and threats of death have been delivered by the IRA - with not a word of dismay, let alone denunciation from Mr Adams.'

Addressing a Conservative audience in Sussex, Sir Patrick twice quoted comments made by Mr Reynolds in the United States, in an attempt to illustrate Sinn Fein's international isolation.

He said: 'These murderers kill for no one but themselves. And Mr Adams does not withdraw his justifications of what he calls the armed struggle.'

Sir Patrick also took a side swipe at John Hume, leader of the Social, Democratic and Labour Party, intimating that Mr Reynolds did not support Mr Hume's contention that 'one or two hours' of face-to-face discussion with Sinn Fein would be enough to clinch peace.

Indicating that Conservative backbench calls for a security crackdown against the IRA are in vain, Sir Patrick added: 'The reality is that security policy has continued to be one of full commitment to the deterrence and defeat of terrorism. The police and army have not ceased to 'crack down' on the terrorists.'