Peace hopes 'at an all-time low', says Adams

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Hopes for peace that have built up over the past few years in Northern Ireland have vanished and expectations are at an all-time low, Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams said yesterday.

As republicans on both sides of the Irish border prepared for demonstrations tomorrow to mark the anniversary of the 1916 Easter Rising, Mr Adams said there was little expectation of progress. "The peace process is in serious difficulty. The hope and expectations of recent years, battered by a succession of Unionist-inspired crises, is now at an all-time low," he said. Mr Adams called on republicans to demonstrate their opposition to the suspension of the Northern Ireland Assembly at the commemoration rallies, the largest of which is to be in Belfast. Big demonstrations are also planned for Londonderry, Carrickmore, in Co Tyrone, and Crossmaglen, South Armagh.

Mr Adams said: "If Tony Blair really believes the Good Friday Agreement is the only way forward, then now is the time for him to fulfil his responsibilities and make politics work by quickly and irreversibly restoring the political institutions."

The Prime Minister was expected to hold fresh talks with all the Northern Ireland parties after Easter in an effort to end the deadlock over IRA disarmament, which has threatened the future of the process.

The republican leadership has made it clear there will be no decommissioning by the 22 May deadline set out under terms of the Good Friday Agreement. David Trimble's Ulster Unionist Party warned the British and Irish governments that there could be no power-sharing executive until the Provisional IRA started emptying its arms dumps.

Peter Mandelson, Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, suspended the assembly two months ago.