Hume's claim of peace in a week scorned by Unionists: IRA ready to review position towards loyalist paramilitaries if attacks stop

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The Independent Online
LEADING Unionist politicians in Northern Ireland yesterday heaped scorn on the assertion by John Hume, leader of the Social Democratic and Labour Party, that peace could break out in the province within a week if the British government accepted proposals he has hammered out with Gerry Adams, the Sinn Fein president.

The attack on Mr Hume came as the IRA last night responded to recent calls for a cessation of violence with a statement that it was prepared to review its position towards loyalist paramilitary organisations if they stopped attacking members of the nationalist communities.

The statement, issued from Dublin, said: 'Any cessation of murderous attacks against nationalists would of course be welcomed. As a consequence, we would monitor the situation and review our position towards those directly involved in the murder gangs.

'The British government and its forces bear ultimate responsibility for this conflict and armed struggle is aimed primarily at them.'

Meanwhile, loyalist constitutional politicians, Jim Molyneaux, leader of the Ulster Unionists, and his Democratic Unionist counterpart, Ian Paisley, made it clear that they would have no truck with still- secret principles laid out in the Hume-Adams initiative. But Douglas Hurd, the Foreign Secretary, who was on a visit to the province, said the Government would continue to search for a solution.

Mr Hume provoked the flurry of Unionist activity, designed to dampen rising expectations caused by his remarks on the steps of Downing Street, after his unexpected 90-minute meeting with John Major on Thursday afternoon.

Mr Molyneaux maintained that the Hume-Adams peace proposals could not bring about peace within a week, as it would mean both governments surrendering their principles. That explained why the British and Irish governments had distanced themselves from the initiative. He also said that the earliest draft of the Hume-Adams initiative, which he saw in Belfast on 22 September, was 'so outrageous' that it could not have been accepted by any democracy in the world.

'It was a fiendish plan which would have suppressed the wishes of the greater number of people in Northern Ireland . . . Protestant and Roman Catholic alike, because they would have represented a total surrender to all the demands by the IRA,' Mr Molyneaux said.

The most astonishing aspect of the plan, he said, was a proposal that all the political parties of Ireland would have a seat at a permanent conference which would eventually acquire all the powers exer cised by the British government.

However, Mr Molyneaux was confident that the Prime Minister and the Taoiseach, Albert Reynolds, believed the plan 'so preposterous, so unacceptable . . . that they would not touch it with a barge pole'. Rather, Mr Molyneaux said that the Government should continue in the way it had since September, quietly holding discussions with the constitutional parties behind the scenes, with the object of undoing the damage he is adamant was done by the 'high-level circus talks' begun by Peter Brooke when Secretary of State.

He did not believe there would be any circumstances when the IRA could take part in peace talks, no matter how long they abstained from violence, as most would be convinced they had bombed their way to the conference table.

A Royal Ulster Constabulary reservist who died after being hit in the neck by a sniper's bullet while on duty in Newry, Co Armagh, was buried yesterday. Brian Woods, 30, of Dromara, Co Down, who was married with a one-year-old daughter, was the seventh member of the security forces to die in a single- shot attack since August last year.