Sinn Fein to discuss leaders' proposals for peace: Delegates to respond to Downing St declaration

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The Independent Online
SINN FEIN leadership proposals, setting out its own interpretation of the key issues of consent underpinning the Northern Ireland peace process, and addressing what it sees as a residual Unionist veto over political change, will be put before a Sinn Fein convention tomorrow, a senior Republican confirmed yesterday.

The degree of compromise shown in the proposal before the conference, called to consider the party's response to the Downing Street declaration, may decide how far Sinn Fein is prepared to accept that freely-given consent of a majority in Northern Ireland is critical to political agreement. Both Governments see this as the bedrock of any peace settlement.

The editor of the Sinn Fein newspaper An Phoblacht, Micheal Mac Donncha, said: 'Everyone recognises, except the Unionists, that there has to be constitutional and political change.

'We're saying that veto and consent are not the same things. The veto is in the gift of the British Government. You cannot make the approval and consent of Unionists a precondition to political movement. Ultimately we believe the British Government will decide what it does in its own interests, as it always has done.'

Mr Mac Donncha added: 'We don't regard the six counties as a unit of self-determination,' linking this with the principle 'central to Hume-Adams, the Irish peace initiative, that you can't have an internal settlement within the six counties'.

The motion from the ard chomhairle (executive) is expected to accept that the exercise of self- determination requires the consent of every section of the country. But the party leadership does not appear to have made any radical shift in how it sees that self- determination being articulated.

Mr Mac Donncha said another factor which would influence Sinn Fein's attitude was what action was taken to deal with killings of Catholics by Loyalist paramilitaries, and indicated the issue of 'collusion' would soon become prominent on the party's agenda.

'They (the British) must attempt to disarm them. They are the ones who armed them in the late Eighties, we would argue, as part of their strategy,' he said.

While Sinn Fein may give its support to some parts of the Downing Street declaration, neither government is optimistic that Sunday's conference will produce any recommendation to the IRA to move to a ceasefire, despite speculation that an autumn three- month cessation of violence is being discussed by Republicans.

Both British and Irish ministers this week again ruled out a three- month IRA ceasefire as an acceptable basis for Sinn Fein entering political talks.

A Catholic barman, Bobby Monaghan, 44, was shot dead by loyalist gunmen yesterday as his Protestant girlfriend pleaded for his life. He was gunned down at the flat he shared with his girlfriend in the strongly Protestant Rathcoole area of Newtownabbey, north of Belfast.

The couple were together in the bedroom of the flat when two masked gunmen smashed their way into the building. Neighbours said the distraught woman could be heard pleading with the men not to shoot her boyfriend. After shots rang out, they heard her beg Mr Monaghan not to die.

Police said the gunmen fled the scene on foot. The outlawed Ulster Freedom Fighters later claimed responsibility.