IRA agrees to meet victim's father to hear ceasefire plea: Republicans respond to call for talks with senator amid growing condemnation in Ireland of the terrorist bombing campaign

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The Independent Online
THE IRA yesterday agreed to meet Gordon Wilson, the father of Marie Wilson, the Enniskillen bomb victim, to hear his plea for a ceasefire made after the Warrington bombings.

In an unexpected move, the IRA said it had considered the request from Mr Wilson for a meeting and had decided to go along with it. Details of the date and place of the meeting will be fixed when the IRA makes contact with Mr Wilson.

Mr Wilson, a retired businessman who recently accepted appointment to the Senate by Albert Reynolds, the Irish Prime Minister, made clear he had sought the meeting through a Sinn Fein official 'as the father of Marie Wilson and not as a member of the Oireachtais (Parliament)'.

He said it was wrong to accuse him of naivety in making the request. He said he would meet the Provisionals' leadership 'eye to eye and man to man' and try to persuade them to switch to peaceful political methods.

'There has got to be a better way other than bomb and bullet. Three thousand people have died, not all at their hands. They have had their deaths . . . I have suffered as they have suffered. In our shared grief and humanity we must seek another way.'

The IRA decision came as a surprise as Mitchell McLaughlin, a leading Sinn Fein figure, on Sunday stressed the party's independence from the IRA and declined to act as a mediator for the military wing.

The growing momentum of popular revulsion in the Irish Republic with the IRA bombing campaigns in Britain and Northern Ireland is likely to be maintained following the decision by a peace rally in Trinity College on Wednesday night, attended by well over 1,000 people, to mount a demonstration against the paramilitaries in Dublin on Sunday.

Mr Wilson will, as a private citizen, today attend the funeral of the first Warrington victim, three-year-old Johnathan Ball. At the family's request, the funeral will be private and no politicians will attend.

Hundreds of floral tributes and messages of sympathy will be sent to the funeral following an appeal in Dublin by the New Consensus group which opposes all political violence.

Offerings began appearing at the shrine at St Stephen's Green in central Dublin 24 hours before the group had advertised. Messages attached to the bouquets echoed the 'not in our name' sentiment that recurred throughout speeches at the Trinity College rally.

Messages on the bouquets read: 'Please forgive us. The IRA do not represent the Irish people.' And: 'To the people of Warrington - deepest sympathy. They do not speak for us.' One of the messages, inscribed in crayon by a child barely old enough to write, said: 'I am very sorry.'

News of the death of Timothy Parry, the second victim of the Warrington bombs, and the shootings in Northern Ireland brought more gifts. Drivers in the rush hour last night sounded their horns as they passed.

Dick Spring, the Irish Foreign Minister, said yesterday that 'the future welfare of the people of Ireland was overshadowed by the Northern conflict'. He told the first debate on Northern Ireland in the Senate in eight years that 'far from promoting the objective of unity, paramilitary violence is the biggest obstacle to achieving understanding'.

Maurice Manning of the opposition Fine Gael, traditionally strong in its condemnation of Republican violence, gave guarded support to the principle of talks with Republicans aimed at achieving a ceasefire. 'There are huge difficulties in talking to Sinn Fein, but if it would help bring about peace maybe they should.'

Maire Geoghegan-Quinn, the Justice Minister, welcomed the Wilson-IRA meeting, saying it 'offered a ray of hope'. Dublin ministers have recently seen little chance of the IRA reconsidering its strategy.

Irish newspapers have this week highlighted the IRA's record over 21 years of expressing regret at 'civilian' casualties, blaming security forces for failing to avert casualties after 'adequate' warnings and carrying on the bombing campaign.

The leaders of the Roman Catholic Church in England and Ireland have denounced the IRA's bombing in Warrington as: 'Utterly inhuman and barbaric . . . totally incompatible with the teachings of the Catholic Church . . . and to be unreservedly condemned.' The unprecedented joint statement from Cardinal Basil Hume, the Archbishop of Westminster, and Cardinal Cahal Daly, the Archbishop of Armagh, strongly rejects all IRA violence.

The two churchmen said: 'We know our feeling of revulsion is shared by the overwhelming majority of people in Ireland, as well as in Britain, who bear no responsibility for such outrageous acts perpetrated by a very small fraction.'