John Hume, leader of the Social Democratic and Labour Party, yesterday gave support to the initiatives taken in the Irish Republic and called for a peace referendum on both sides of the border to increase the pressure on paramilitaries engaged in terrorist violence.
At a press conference after Sunday's peace rally, which attracted a crowd of more than 20,000, the campaign set up by Susan McHugh, from Dublin, appealed for office space and volunteers to staff a Dublin headquarters. The organisation has adopted the name 'Peace Initiative 93.'
The campaigners are encouraging supporters in each of the 32 counties in Ireland to mount their own peace events from silent vigils to rallies and ecumenical religious services. While the Dublin rally was taking place on Sunday, smaller crowds gathered in Cork city and in Ennis, Co Clare.
A symbolic peace march will be held on Easter Sunday from Slane where St Patrick once lit Easter fires, to Tara, Co Meath, seat of the ancient high kings of Ireland until the 6th century AD, passing the site of the Battle of the Boyne.
Easter weekend will also see the collection of messages sent in a postcard referendum for peace to PO boxes in Dublin and Belfast. The Post Office in Northern Ireland and its counterpart An Post in the South have agreed that the cards can be sent free of charge.
Football authorities in Dublin confirmed yesterday that they will call for a minute's silence before the Republic of Ireland vs Northern Ireland World Cup match tomorrow.
Some politicians in Northern Ireland last night questioned the basis of the peace call. Peter Robinson, MP for East Belfast and leader of the Democratic Unionist Party, said in Belfast that the Peace 93 movement was 'whistling in the wind. You don't get peace because you ask for peace. You have to go out there and defeat terrorism. There is no other way of getting the terrorists off the back of the community.'
He was equally scornful of Senator Gordon Wilson's plan to meet the IRA and ask them to stop the killing.
'I don't believe anybody should be meeting with terrorists at all. I think he is allowing the Government the opportunity for them, too, to get into the act of talking to terrorists,' he said.
But Sir Patrick Mayhew, the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, welcomed the peace initiative. 'The Provisional IRA purport to speak, to act, for Ireland and the people of Ireland. Well, I think the people of Ireland are giving them a very, very clear indication of what they think about that. I think that is wholly to be welcomed.'
Speaking in Derry yesterday, Mr Hume said that both the Irish and British governments could hold parallel referendums offering a blueprint for peace, 'over the heads of the political parties which refused to participate' in talks to prepare a replacement for the Anglo-Irish Agreement.
He said that if the stalemate remained, the two governments should open consultations with individual parties on either side of the border.
Mr Hume's intervention follows what SDLP figures claim is a concerted effort by the Unionist and alliance parties in the current Northern Ireland local election campaign to blame him for the breakdown of the inter- party talks process late last year.
Last night, the Sinn Fein President, Gerry Adams, urged republicans and nationalists to take part in next Sunday's peace events saying they should raise demands for 'inclusive