Mayhew asks Adams for face-to-face talks

BY DAVID McKITTRICK

Ireland Correspondent

The first publicly-acknowledged meeting between a British Cabinet minister and the leadership of Sinn Fein, the political wing of the IRA will take place in Washington next week.

Sir Patrick Mayhew, Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, invited Sinn Fein's president, Gerry Adams, to meet him at a White House conference on trade and investment in Ireland. Sinn Fein speedily accepted the invitation, for which its officials have been pressing. It is likely to take place on Wednesday.

It will be welcomed by the Irish and United States governments who both favour an injection of momentum into the peace process. It also marks another incremental, yet important, step in the gradual thawing of relations between the Government and Sinn Fein.

Mr Adams has in the past been interned without trial, jailed and excluded from Britain on security grounds. John Major once told the Commons that the idea of talking to him "turns my stomach".

But since last August's IRA ceasefire lines of communication between the republicans and the Northern Ireland Office have been steadily strengthened. In the first instance, a Sinn Fein team held a series of meetings with British officials, then last week a junior minister, Michael Ancram, took part in the talks for the first time.

Earlier this month, the Prime Minister was set to shake hands with Sinn Fein's chairman, Mitchel McLaughlin, but disturbances in Londonderry prevented this taking place. This week, however, Mr McLaughlin shook hands with another junior minister, Malcolm Moss. Sinn Fein and government officials speak on the telephone daily. Both Sir Patrick Mayhew and Mr Adams are due to attend the Washington conference, which will have a high media profile. It has been generally understood that a refusal by Sir Patrick to meet the Sinn Fein leader would overshadow the conference.

Announcing his invitation to Mr Adams yesterday, Sir Patrick stressed that he would be placing heavy emphasis on the question of the de-commissioning of paramilitary arms. He said he would be explaining that public confidence in the permanence of peace required substantial progress on de-commissioning.

Although the meeting is undoubtedly perceived as an advance for Sinn Fein, the Government is making it clear that it continues to resist the republican demand to be treated on exactly the same basis as other parties in Northern Ireland.

IRA prisoner release, page 10

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
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

Ashdown Group: Senior Accounts Assistant - Accounts Payable - St. Albans

£26000 - £28000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: Senior Accounts Assistan...

Ashdown Group: Treasury Assistant - Accounts Assistant - London, Old Street

£24000 - £26000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, glo...

Recruitment Genius: Installation and Service / Security Engineer

£22000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is part of a Group...

Recruitment Genius: Service Charge Accounts Assistant

£16000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you a a young, dynamic pers...

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence
Public relations as 'art'? Surely not

Confessions of a former PR man

The 'art' of public relations is being celebrated by the V&A museum, triggering some happy memories for DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef succumbs to his sugar cravings with super-luxurious sweet treats

Bill Granger's luxurious sweet treats

Our chef loves to stop for 30 minutes to catch up on the day's gossip, while nibbling on something sweet
London Marathon 2015: Paula Radcliffe and the mother of all goodbyes

The mother of all goodbyes

Paula Radcliffe's farewell to the London Marathon will be a family affair
Everton vs Manchester United: Steven Naismith demands 'better' if Toffees are to upset the odds against United

Steven Naismith: 'We know we must do better'

The Everton forward explains the reasons behind club's decline this season
Arsenal vs Chelsea: Praise to Arsene Wenger for having the courage of his convictions

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Praise to Wenger for having the courage of his convictions