Irish Primate praises talks with Sinn Fein: SDLP leader commended for secret meeting with republicans

CARDINAL Cahal Daly, the Catholic Primate of Ireland, and politicians on all sides yesterday welcomed surprise talks between Sinn Fein and the mainly Catholic SDLP aimed at securing a lasting peace in Northern Ireland.

Gerry Adams, President of Sinn Fein, and John Hume, leader of the SDLP, held a secret 90-minute meeting on Saturday after what is believed to have been weeks of preparatory work by a group of Roman Catholic clergymen.

Neither side would discuss the content of the talks yesterday, but their timing is thought to be significant. They come only days after the IRA re-affirmed its commitment to armed struggle in its meeting with the peace campaigner Senator Gordon Wilson; just a month before local elections are due with Sinn Fein support dwindling; and at a time when moves are under way for the resumption of the Northern Ireland peace talks.

After Saturday's meeting in Londonderry, Mr Hume said that he hoped the talks would lead to a renunciation of violence but he added: 'This is only a hope.'

Speaking on BBC radio, Cardinal Daly praised Mr Hume. His party will be in direct competition with Sinn Fein for the nationalist vote next month.

Cardinal Daly said: 'I greatly admire the courage of John Hume in continuing with his work for peace and being prepared to take political risks - quite considerable physical risks - in doing what he's doing.

'I sincerely hope, and thousands hope with me, that it may lead to an end of violence and to peace.'

Kevin McNamara, Labour's spokesman on Northern Ireland, and Peter Temple-Morris, the Conservative co-chairman of the British-Irish Parliamentary Body, welcomed the talks. Each said that they had complete faith in Mr Hume's ability to negotiate with Sinn Fein, but they felt progress would be achieved only over the long term.

Sinn Fein and the SDLP held a series of meetings in the late 1980s, which broke down after they failed to reach agreement on even basic issues. The SDLP argued that British involvement in Northern Ireland was no longer colonial and had moved to a position of neutrality; Sinn Fein considered it an occupation.

Their differences after each meeting were published and widely circulated during that series of talks. Their decision now to keep the contents of meetings secret is a good sign, according to Mr Temple-Morris. 'For Sinn Fein to agree to silence suggests that it is not feeling in a strong position,' he said. 'It has been notoriously weak in getting public backing, so its involvement in the resumption of talks on a private, low-key basis augurs well for a degree of success.'

Sinn Fein chairman Tom Hartley, Mr McNamara and Mr Temple-Morris yesterday rejected a call for the return of internment made by Senator Wilson, whose daughter, Marie, was killed in the 1987 Remembrance Day bombing at Enniskillen.

Mr Wilson, who was devastated when the IRA rejected his peace overtures last week, said in an interview with the Sunday Times that he believed internment was the only alternative to terrorism.

The three said that they respected Senator Wilson's peace efforts but one said the call for internment 'came more from a grieving father than an Irish senator'.

Pearse McCauley, the suspected IRA terrorist, appeared before Dublin's anti-terrorist Special Criminal Court on four firearms charges. Mr McCauley, 28, of Strabane, Co Tyrone, Northern Ireland, who was arrested at Connolly station, Dublin, on Friday, was remanded in custody and will next appear in court on 21 April.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
Sir David Attenborough
people
Life and Style
Young girl and bowl of cereal
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
'The Archers' has an audience of about five million
radioA growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried
News
news
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Tradewind Recruitment: English Teacher

Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: This post arises as a result of the need to...

Tradewind Recruitment: Class Teacher Required ASAP In Uminster

£120 - £150 per annum: Tradewind Recruitment: I am recruiting on instruction o...

Ashdown Group: Head of Finance - Financial Director - London - £70,000

£70000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Head of Finance - Financial Controller - Fina...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Executive - Wimbledon, SW London

£24000 - £28000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Marketing Executive - Wim...

Day In a Page

Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee
Valentine's Day cards: 5 best online card shops

Don't leave it to the petrol station: The best online card shops for Valentine's Day

Can't find a card you like on the high street? Try one of these sites for individual, personalised options, whatever your taste
Greece elections: In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza

Greece elections

In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza, says Patrick Cockburn
Holocaust Memorial Day: Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears

Holocaust Memorial Day

Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears over Europe
Fortitude and the Arctic attraction: Our fascination with the last great wilderness

Magnetic north

The Arctic has always exerted a pull, from Greek myth to new thriller Fortitude. Gerard Gilbert considers what's behind our fascination with the last great wilderness
Homeless Veterans appeal: Homeless in Wales can find inspiration from Daniel’s story

Homeless Veterans appeal

Homeless in Wales can find inspiration from Daniel’s story
Front National family feud? Marine Le Pen and her relatives clash over French far-right party's response to Paris terror attacks

Front National family feud?

Marine Le Pen and her relatives clash over French far-right party's response to Paris terror attacks
Pot of gold: tasting the world’s most expensive tea

Pot of gold

Tasting the world’s most expensive tea
10 best wildlife-watching experiences: From hen harriers to porpoises

From hen harriers to porpoises: 10 best wildlife-watching experiences

While many of Britain's birds have flown south for the winter, it's still a great time to get outside for a spot of twitching
Nick Easter: 'I don’t want just to hold tackle bags, I want to be out there'

'I don’t want just to hold tackle bags, I want to be out there'

Nick Easter targeting World Cup place after England recall
DSK, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel

The inside track on France's trial of the year

Dominique Strauss-Kahn, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel: