Letter: Two steps that would help Trimble come to the table

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Letter: Two steps that would help Trimble come to the table

Sir: You are right to urge David Trimble to take part in the forthcoming talks on Northern Ireland (leading article, 29 August), but the British and Irish governments have an obligation to make it easier for him and his Unionist party to do so.

First, both governments should acknowledge that by inviting Sinn Fein to participate they have relaxed the conditions set by the Downing Street Declaration. These required a "permanent end to the use of, or support for, paramilitary violence" and for democratically mandated parties "to establish a commitment to exclusively peaceful methods". The ceasefire over the last six weeks is very welcome, but it would be disingenuous to claim that it is enough to satisfy these conditions.

Second, the Irish government should make it clear that it really is concerned to find a "just and lasting settlement". The Taoiseach used this phrase and similar phrases several times in a speech to a peace group in Dublin in July, and he also rightly said that such a settlement would require "a new political dispensation".

But he then seemed to go back on it all by endorsing his party's traditional objective of Irish unity as a long-term aim. Since there is no chance that the participants in the forthcoming talks will agree to that, this is tantamount to saying that the Irish government would not regard any settlement that the talks might reach as lasting and would not be committed to making it work. Unionists cannot be expected to co-operate in the search for a new dispensation and the talks cannot succeed while this attitude is maintained.

STEPHEN PLOWDEN

London NW1

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