Mitchell is due in Dublin this week to talk with politicians


AS EFFORTS to revive the peace process continue, Senator George Mitchell is expected to arrive in Dublin on Thursday.

The former chairman of the international body on arms decommissioning is expected to meet senior politicians here. He is also expected to meet the British Prime Minister, Mr John Major, in London this week.

The Mitchell report continues to be a focus for those seeking an exit from the impasse. Senior sources said Mr Mitchell was President Clinton's choice as economic adviser on Northern Ireland; that he had been appointed to the decommissioning body with the support of the Irish and British governments and that he had earned the trust of all sides in the peace process.

The Fianna Fail leader, Mr Bertie Ahern, said last week in Tralee that Mr Mitchell's involvement was "essential" as hiss report "can provide the sole way out of what could otherwise be almost insuperable difficulties".

Mr Ahern and senior party colleagues are due to meet a Sinn Fein delegation led by Mr Gerry Adams in Dublin today. The meeting is expected go ahead despite some initial doubts at senior level in Fianna Fail. Some of Mr Ahern's comments in the wake of the Docklands bombing have caused disagreement in republican circles.

Some senior sources in Dublin said an Anglo Irish summit could be held as early as Wednesday or Thursday. But speaking after a Fine Gael meeting in the Dublin West constituency, the Taoiseach, Mr Bruton, said no time had yet been fixed. He and Mr Major were in "more or less" daily contact.

"We don't want to get into a situation where we fix a date and have to postpone it even for a short while, so we'd like to get as much of the work as we can done beforehand. We're pretty determined to have it before the end of the month."

Asked to comment on a Sunday newspaper report that SDLP leader Mr John Hume had asked him to meet the Sinn Fein president, the Taoiseach said: "I didn't have that conversation with John Hume.

"That was something the Government deliberated on at great length and we decided we couldn't have ministerial contact with Sinn Fein as long as the other arm of the republican movement is killing people."

The Taoiseach said his meeting with the independent unionist MP, Mr Robert McCartney, on Saturday, had lasted more than three hours. "It was a very, very good meeting, we really were able to explore one another's assumptions, which is what's needed."

He said conflict about which state people belonged to was most fundamental of all political questions. There had to be "a lot of give and take" between unionists and nationalist.

"I know unionists have view about that, but the truth of the matter is they have to compromise - they must compromise. Equally, nationalists have to compromise.

He reiterated that a breakthrough in the peace process been "very, very close" before Docklands bomb. "On the basis of the proximity talks we had a route that bled us to having all parties in evolved in talks and ultimately towards an agreement.

"I think we were closer, precisely because we had set ourselves a firm aim. The firm agreed to by the British government was the first time a specific date had been set for a party talks. Precisely because the pressure of the end of February deadline, we were closer than we'd ever been achieving all party talks.

"It is therefore really very hard to understand why the IRA planted a bomb in those circumstances. It is very hard to understand that, and it has not been explained by anybody why such time should have been chosen and why anyone would choose to defend such a gross political miscalculation."

In his address to Fine Gael activists, the Taoiseach said he wanted to see "talks without threats". Murder was wrong and there could be no "moral fog" on that issue.

"The Government - as anybody who exercises leadership in society does - has a responsibility to point out the difference between right and wrong. There is such a thing as right and wrong and killing is wrong," Mr Bruton said, to applause from the floor.

The next meeting of the Anglo Irish liaison group of senior civil servants may be held in Dublin in the next few days. There is speculation that Mr Spring may meet the Northern Ireland Secretary, Sir Patrick Mayhew, shortly afterwards to prepare for the summit.

The Tanaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr Spring, speaking on RTE radio, welcomed the invitation to talks sent to him by the Ulster Unionist Party leader, Mr David Trimble, and said he would respond with a possible agenda over the following 24 hours. "Hopefully, it will take place in the very near future," Mr Spring said.