Early reinstatement by IRA of the ceasefire is unlikely


AN early reinstatement of the IRA ceasefire appears unlikely after senior republicans reacted with caution and suspicion to the Anglo Irish communique. Sources insisted that preconditions to the party's entry to talks still exist.

Though the joint statement from yesterday's summit in London delivered a fixed date for all party negotiation, thus fulfilling a key Sinn Fein demand, republican sources were not optimistic that a reinstatement of the IRA ceasefire was imminent.

The Sinn Fein leadership gave a "cautious welcome" to the fixed date for the commencement of all party talks but warned: "We are at a very difficult and testing time in the search for a lasting peace settlement".

Expressing unease at the three and a half month delay in getting full scale negotiations started, republican sources claimed unnecessary tensions and pitfalls could open up during that lengthy period. Much of their irritation focused on the retention of the ministerial ban on talks with Sinn Fein during the nine days of "proximity talks" that begin on Monday. This, they insist, amounts to a precondition.

Sinn Fein intended to use this initial dialogue to explore how, the process of negotiations would be hammered out - particularly in relation to proposed elections - and, having established that, then to go back to the IRA with a "package". The IRA is clearly not ready to accept the communique at face value as a basis for an immediate reinstatement of its ceasefire and is seeking clarification on a number of issues.

The choice facing republicans in the coming weeks or months is either to seek a reinstatement of the ceasefire and participate in the process now carved by London and Dublin or face complete political isolation.

Sinn Fein sources, said the party would have difficulty building the necessary persuasive argument to take to the IRA if it did not have access to Ministers, and continued to be treated as "second class citizens" in the initial round of talks beginning next week. They could not say last night if the party would send a delegation to the proximity talks, expected to be held in Stormont.

Gerry Adams wants to go to the IRA to persuade them to take the action they took 18 months ago. Sinn Fein must now judge whether this package meets the requirements. Does it come close? Exclusion does not bring peace", one republican source said.

In spite of the mistrust that marked republicans initial response to the communique, the Sinn Fein leadership gave a cautious welcome to the setting of a date for the start of inclusive negotiations.

In an initial response, ard chomhairle member Mr Martin McGuinness said it was "too early" to make a judgment but he to warned of "the great dangers" that lay in the unionists approach to the elective process.

Mr Gerry Adams said many people would "remain sceptical of this commitment in the context of consistent British bad faith".

Mr Adams was concerned that the unionist proposal for an election as a precondition to dialogue had been accepted, and that the two governments failed to reach agreement on the form or purpose of these elections.

Signalling that the party would respond positively, he said Sinn, Fein would explore the two governments' proposals. But it would be remiss of him not to point out the enormous difficulties which faced everyone in rebuilding the process.

"What is required is open, inclusive and unconditional dialogue with everything on the table and everyone at the table," Mr Adams said.