Unionist MP says IRA ceasefire 'for real'

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The Independent Online
THE 10-DAY-OLD IRA ceasefire received its most encouraging Unionist response last night when the Ulster Unionist MP John Taylor broke party ranks and said his 'gut reaction' was that the terrorist declaration was 'for real'.

Mr Taylor's remarks to his Strangford constituents are in contrast to the sceptical stance adopted by James Molyneaux, the party leader. The party said Mr Taylor was expressing a personal view.

Mr Taylor, who was shot by the official IRA in 1972, said it was right that Unionists proceed with caution, but insisted his optimism was shared by his constituents. 'The longer the ceasefire goes on, the more convinced I am it is real,' he said. 'I spent the whole of Thursday with constituents and I have their support. I hope we can soon move on to the next stage which is the IRA handing over its weapons.'

Mr Taylor added that the Irish Republic could show its goodwill by renouncing its constitutional claim to jurisdiction over Northern Ireland. He also echoed demands by Seamus Mallon, deputy leader of the nationalist SDLP, that details of the framework being devised by Britain and the Irish Republic for talks on the future constitution of Northern Ireland be made public to allay Unionist fears.

Mr Taylor's remarks were made only hours after Dr Robin Eames, Primate of the Protestant Church of Ireland, said that John Major had given him his word that there had been no secret deal between the British Government and the IRA.

Dr Eames called on the Ulster Freedom Fighters and the Ulster Volunteer Force to renounce violence. 'Please listen to the assurance I was given, but above all else find it in your hearts that this is the time to stop.' The UFF and the UVF are insisting on clarification to 'allow Loyalist paramilitary groups to make a meaningful contribution towards peace'.

Dr Eames said he was prepared to take Mr Major and the IRA on trust until proved wrong. 'The mountain to climb in building the peace will be nothing to the mountain we have to climb if this process fails and we have to go back to square one and start all over again.'

Albert Reynolds, the Irish Prime Minister, stepped up his bid to win the confidence of Unionists. He said it was only right that they be given time to consider their position but in the meantime the killing by Loyalist paramilitaries should stop. 'You're entitled to time, the same as others were entitled to time - but at the end of the day we want to see you participate in and contribute to the creation of a permanent and enduring peace on the island of Ireland.'

An upbeat Mr Reynolds said he believed the British Government also needed time to accept the ceasefire, but that it was 'slowly moving towards a recognition of the situation'.

Gerry Adams, the Sinn Fein President, said yesterday he was applying for a visa to visit the US. He wants to take up an invitation to address members of the US Congress before the end of the month.

In February, the US issued a visa to Mr Adams in spite of protests by the British Government. Mr Major is opposed to Mr Adams receiving another visa but, with Irish Government support, President Bill Clinton is expected to sanction a visit.

The transfer of four republican terrorists from English jails to Northern Ireland only hours after the IRA ceasefire began was 'completely wrong', Michael Howard, the Home Secretary, said.

'The timing was left to the Prison Service, but there is a general expectation in Government that where timing is sensitive, ministers are informed. Very regrettably on this occasion they weren't,' he told BBC Radio 4's The World at One.