Sinn Fein prepares to reject declaration

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SINN Fein yesterday promised a definitive reply 'within weeks' to last December's Downing Street declaration, in the meantime releasing a report on soundings taken by the party on the way ahead, writes David McKittrick.

With hopes of an early IRA cessation of violence almost non-existent, the Sinn Fein president, Gerry Adams, presaged the likely republican response in a short foreword.

He expressed the hope that the peace process would continue, but warned that it would be neither straightforward nor speedy. This line looks like being the keynote to the Sinn Fein response. It will seek to downplay the declaration as just one of a series of significant steps in a protracted process.

In the short-term, the republicans will face much criticism when it is confirmed there is to be no early ending of the IRA campaign. The republican hope will be to weather that storm and a limited ceasefire may be staged to deflect condemnation.

The document released yesterday is a summary of some of the 228 submissions received by Sinn Fein commenting on the declaration; 85 of these, or 37 per cent, called for an ending of the IRA campaign or a three- month ceasefire. However, when non-republicans are deducted, few republicans favoured a cessation.

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