Sinn Fein leader demands peace talks

PEACE TALKS on Northern Ireland were demanded yesterday by Gerry Adams, the president of Sinn Fein.

But Mr Adams rejected a renewed call by Sir Patrick Mayhew, the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, for the IRA to renounce violence.

Neither man's words marked any shift in position. But Sir Patrick said in a BBC interview he was confident that the collapsed inter-party talks on the government of Northern Ireland would be revived when a new government was in place in the Irish republic.

The prospect of renewed talks - although likely to be met with scepticism - was seen as an attempt to put renewed pressure on the hawks in the IRA to review their campaign of violence, and to strengthen the case for those who share Mr Adams's support for a political settlement. Sir Patrick made it clear that he would not hold talks with the IRA until it renounced violence.

'We can talk properly and we have been talking properly to all those who refuse to countenance violence,' he said. 'If violence is abandoned, disavowed, forsworn, set behind them by the IRA and they give us a sufficient time to show that they mean it, then people will talk.'

Mr Adams, speaking through an actor's voice to comply with the broadcasting ban on interviews with Sinn Fein leaders, said on BBC radio it was not a significant initiative by Sir Patrick. 'There should be a demilitarisation of the situation. Sinn Fein has an electoral mandate which should be respected by the Government.

'Mayhew should start peace talks. It's as simple as that. . . Sinn Fein is prepared for talks now. Today. If Patrick Mayhew is serious he should be prepared for talks now. Today.'

Sir Patrick was speaking after condemning the first killings of the year in Northern Ireland, in which two Catholics were murdered by protestant paramilitaries.

He said of the prospect of further inter-party talks: 'Last year we had the most successful talks for the last 20 years. . . They were immensely important. Everyone recognises the need for future talks.

'I confidently believe that when we have a new government in the republic, talks will take place. And it is with a view to getting a new set of relationships within Northern Ireland, between North and South, between the two islands, East and West, that those talks took place.'

He attributed one of the causes of the violence to lack of a basis for the self-governance of Northern Ireland.

'A political discussion should continue to see if we can get a political accommodation,' Sir Patrick said.

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