Dublin building "package" for republicans


THE Government has to set about constructing "a package" to convince Sinn Fein and the IRA that the ceasefire should be restored, the Tanaiste has said.

"If we end the violence, then, obviously, we can see if we can get all parties together."

Mr Spring said the situation now was that most parties would not come to the table, nor engage in the proposed proximity talks with Sinn Fein, in the absence of a cessation of violence.

On possible elections in the North, Mr Spring said there were currently enormous divergences, seven among the unionist parties, con the matter.

"Our main concern in relation to any elective process is that it must be inclusive of all political parties, particularly the minority groups, and there must be guarantees that whatever happens there would be no further delays and no barriers erected, no further preconditions and that we would go straight into all party talks directly and on a time fixed basis.

Meanwhile, Mr Martin McGuinness of Sinn Fein said that in claiming that the Irish and British governments were close to agreement on how to move forward, the Taoiseach was dealing in the "politics of illusion." He added that the proposals for a Dayton style conference, Mr John Hume's proposals for a referendum and the demand by the British government and the unionists "for a return to Stormont" were a million miles apart.

But he said it was not a time for Sinn Fein, or the representatives of the nationalist community, to be fighting with Mr John Bruton, Mr Proinsias De Rossa or anybody else. "And I am not turning my fire on Dublin. The people responsible for the mess we are all in at the minute are the British government and the unionists' political leadership."

Welcoming the invitation to talks from the leader of the Ulster Unionist Party, Mr David Trimble, the Tanaiste said he would respond with a possible agenda over the next 24 hours. "Hopefully, it will make place in the very near future.

Asked if he was concerned about suggestions that the UUP wanted to use the elections to further marginalise smaller loyalist parties, the Tanaiste said there must be space for them in any elective process or referendum.

He said it would be unlikely if there would be a role in the short term for Senator George Mitchell. But he had done very valuable work and the Mitchell report would be the key to all discussions in the future. He knew that Mr Mitchell would be ready and willing if both governments wanted him to assist again.

Mr McGuinness said that the difficulty in the process lay in the refusal of the British government and the unionist political leadership to engage in meaningful negotiations with anybody.

"Many people within the broader republican community have come to the conclusion that, the last thing the British government and the unionists want are all party peace negotiations."

He said Sinn Fein stood ready and willing to be part of any project put together to bring all the parties to the negotiating table for meaningful talks.

Asked what was stopping the IRA ceasefire being restored, Mr McGuinness said Sinn Fein could not do it on its own. "People make a very serious mistake if they believe Sinn Fein and the IRA are one and the same thing."

He insisted that at no stage did any member of the Sinn Fein leadership say that they could speak authoritatively on behalf of the IRA.

He said Sinn Fein was totally committed to exclusively peaceful methods of moving forward. Denying that this was "empty rhetoric", he said Sinn Fein had proven in the past three years that it had mainly initiated the peace process.