IRA Ceasefire: Adams draws crowds under the Army's eye: David McKittrick attended two very different events to hear two men central to the peace process

SINN FEIN'S lunchtime news conference took place in dingy old industrial premises, overlooked by a military base. The roof of the Army building bristles with complex pieces of electronic gadgetry, many of them pointing in Gerry Adams's direction.

Mr Adams attracted three or perhaps four times as many media personnel as had turned out to hear John Major. All seats were taken, with some reporters at the back standing on chairs to see Mr Adams and Martin McGuinness. Mr Adams seven times used the word 'potential' in commending the IRA ceasefire. He said: 'It has the potential and creates the opportunity to break the stalemate created by London's refusal to provide clarification for Sinn Fein. It has created a new potential, that's the significance.'

He said he had sent a fax to Mr Major asking him to authorise direct talks with Sinn Fein but emphasising that he sought clarification, not negotiation. He went on: 'It's our sense that even if Mr Major feels he cannot move at this time, let's be quite clear, this isn't the end of this process. We know he has problems within his own party, we know he has difficulties. We're open for business now, next week, next month, next year. We're here, we're not going away. It would be better if he sought to move the situation forward now, but if he doesn't do that for domestic or party political reasons that's fair enough: we're very patient.'

Martin McGuinness, who was last year involved in secret contacts with the Government, said they 'haven't heard a whisper from them' since November. So why was he so certain he would?

'We're convinced that it will happen again. we just sense it. We know it from our own intuition that it has to happen, that it's the logical thing to do. We're not talking about the British government breaking a principle of long standing: no later than 12 months ago I actually sat in a room with people who were representing them. It has happened in the past and we're absolutely convinced it will happen in the future.'

(Photograph omitted)

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