Leading Article: United front on IRA cynicism

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The Independent Online
SPEAKING in Ulster, John Major dismissed as 'cynical' the 72-hour post-Easter ceasefire declared by the IRA. He was right. According to the IRA statement, 'there are no conditions attached to this unilateral initiative . . .'. This assertion is, not to mince words, a lie.

The truth is that there is a murderous condition built into the temporary IRA ceasefire. The inherent threat is that unless the British government does whatever the IRA wishes, the bombing and the shooting will be resumed shortly after midnight on 8 April.

The gloss added by Gerry Adams, president of Sinn Fein, the political wing of the terrorist group, is that the limited 'peace initiative' was designed to provide the opportunity to 'break the stalemate in the peace process'. This deadlock is - so it is claimed by Mr Adams - 'sustained by the British Government's repeated refusal to provide clarification to Sinn Fein about the Downing Street Declaration and the processes envisaged in it'.

Mr Adams went on to explain that his demand was for 'direct dialogue' with the British government. And here, of course, is the rub. By direct dialogue, Mr Adams presumably means public dialogue and public dialogue means, in effect, recognition. If Mr Adams or his colleagues in the IRA merely want to make sure that they understood the small print of the Declaration, they could employ the private channels of communication with London which, the British Prime Minister insists, remain in place. Were these to prove to be clogged, the channels that run between Republican Belfast and Dublin could be utilised.

In short, if Sinn Fein and the IRA are seeking nothing more than quiet clarification of the small print in the Declaration - and not a public relations coup - there should be no difficulty in accommodating them. John Hume, the leader of the Social Democratic and Labour Party, who has the ability to move between Number 10, the Irish Prime Minister's office and Mr Adams's home, could surely oblige.

Last month Dick Spring, the Irish Foreign Minister, indicated that a ceasefire - something short of a publicly stated and permanent cessation of hostilities - would produce at least a slight thaw in Dublin's attitude. Such a position was understandable, given the Irish perception that Mr Adams wants to make peace but has yet to persuade enough of the IRA's leadership to support his efforts. But regrettably, it left the dangerous perception that Dublin was softer on Sinn Fein that was London and encouraged the belief that a wedge might be driven between the two governments.

This week, Dublin has joined London in condemning the IRA's cynicism. Both capitals should continue to insist that there can be 'no negotiations without peace'. The aim must be to ensure that the initiative remains with the legitimate governments of Ireland and the United Kingdom.