Reynolds has 'US card' for Ulster

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The Independent Online
ALBERT REYNOLDS, the Irish Prime Minister, may seek the support of President Clinton for a Northern Ireland settlement if attempts to restart talks on the province's future fail this year.

The possibility of a 'peace envoy' - opposed by the British government - is being revived in Dublin as an 'American card' designed to bring pressure on Whitehall to take part in direct talks with the Irish if the all-party talks are not resumed.

The Taoiseach told British reporters in Dublin last week that Mr Clinton, when they met in Washington on 17 March, had accepted his advice to 'keep his options open' on the question of a US peace envoy or 'fact finding' mission. Mr Reynolds added: 'I have little doubt that if it becomes apparent in the autumn that the talks are not going to restart, President Clinton would be looking for our view.'

He added: 'Hopefully we won't arrive at that situation but, if we do, we have got to sit down seriously and plan how we are going to look at the future, because otherwise it is just saying we will sit back and do nothing and let people continue to be killed and maimed and let destruction take place.' The British and Irish governments had a responsibility to see that the period of conflict was as short as possible.

Mr Reynolds' remarks came in the same week as a speech by Dick Spring, the Irish Minister for Foreign Affairs, in Cork where he suggested that one option, if all- party talks failed to resume, would be for London and Dublin 'in close consultation with each other' to produce their own proposals aimed at breaking the deadlock. The proposals, which could include 'alternative ways' of making progress, would then be presented to the Northern Ireland parties.

The Unionist leaders have rejected a resumption of full-scale talks unless the Irish government agrees as a precondition to remove Articles 2 and 3 of the constitution, which lay claim to sovereignty to the whole island. But, as Mr Spring noted in his Cork speech, Jim Molyneaux, the Official Unionist leader, has not ruled out talks on internal political arrangements in the province, with parallel contacts between the governments on issues of direct Anglo-Irish concern.

Mr Spring went out of his way in his speech to the British-Irish Parliamentary Body - which is boycotted by the Unionists - to say that the two traditions in Northern Ireland, nationalism and unionism, 'have each their own validity and must be treated on equal terms'. Neither should be 'permitted to dominate or co- erce the other'.

Irish officials believe that a significant 'American card' remains to be played and that the unwelcome prospect of US intervention could encourage John Major to agree to such a joint approach by the two governments if all-party talks fail to get off the ground.