Sinn Fein ceasefire deal will be rebuffed: Downing St warning before conference

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Indy Politics
BRITISH Government sources are prepared to reject any attempt by Sinn Fein to enter the Downing Street declaration talks by calling a three-month ceasefire this weekend.

'There has to be a permanent cessation of violence, not a temporary ceasefire,' a spokesman at the Prime Minister's office said.

The army council of the IRA yesterday said it 'encouraged' efforts within Sinn Fein at achieving a 'viable' peace process. The move was widely seen as calculated to defuse speculation of splits in Republican ranks.

In a concerted intervention aimed at tilting the balance towards a ceasefire, the Taoiseach, Albert Reynolds, last night urged the Provisionals to accept a solution based on consent. 'If no party has a veto, no paramilitary organisation has one either,' he said, urging that 'nationalists everywhere must be persuaders in their own cause'.

But the IRA statement, issued just three days before Sinn Fein holds a national conference to decide its response to the declaration, gave little cause for optimism in London or Dublin that the IRA is moving any closer towards permanently ending its campaign.

'It looks as though they're still trying to string things out while keeping themselves centrestage. It's more PR,' a senior Irish source commented.

The IRA statement also welcomed the efforts of 'others' who have helped in the peace process. Republicans have previously praised by name those such as the SDLP leader, John Hume, and Mr Reynolds, whom it sees as playing constructive roles. The more guarded wording was taken as possibly referring to the British and American governments.

The statement, which said the IRA had a 'vested interest in securing peace', seemed aimed at mollifying British, Irish and American opinion disappointed at Sinn Fein's failure to call on the IRA to end its campaign.

The army council conveyed 'solidarity greetings' to the Sinn Fein conference. It continued: 'The efforts of Sinn Fein in advancing the cause of just and lasting peace in Ireland are testimony to the tenacity and durability of the freedom struggle. We encourage Sinn Fein as it continues to strive for the creation of a viable peace process.'

The Prime Minister will seek to bring Ian Paisley, leader of the loyalist Democratic Unionist Party, into the process next week at a meeting at Downing Street. Mr Paisley has boycotted the talks so far. 'Ours is the only show in town. He will not want to be left out,' said a ministerial source.

The inter-government talks are locked on Dublin's territorial claim to the North. Irish ministers are prepared to include in an overall package a commitment to put it to a referendum, but they cannot give guarantees they will abolish the claim in the Irish constitution.