Negotiators nervous as IRA reportedly considers cease-fire
November 20, 1996
Web posted at: 7:00 p.m. EST (2400 GMT)
From Correspondent Margaret Lowrie
LONDON (CNN) -- Hard-line politicians from Northern Ireland's Protestant so-called Loyalist community want a promise from British Prime Minister John Major: no secret deals with the Irish Republican Army.
The concern about such negotiations comes amid reports the IRA may be considering a new cease-fire, to get its political wing Sinn Fein into talks on Northern Ireland's future.
"We made it clear to the prime minister that under no circumstances could the negotiating process in Stormont (Belfast castle where the talks are being held) be altered in some fashion to favor Republicans in return for an IRA cease-fire," said Gary McMichael of the Ulster Democratic Party.
It is not clear what preconditions the IRA might seek. But key players in the process say they are optimistic peace may
once again be within reach.
"I have been engaged in intensive dialogue with Gerry Adams on this very subject, and I have obviously kept both governments fully informed," said John Hume, of the Social Democratic and Labor Party.
"I believe as a result of my dialogue that there is real hope of a restoration of that cease-fire. And of course it all centers around the whole question of trust."
Trust, some would say, was shattered when the IRA broke an 18-month cease-fire last February with a bombing campaign in Britain. As a result, Sinn Fein was barred from multi-party talks which began in June.
But the talks have run into other major problems, perhaps foremost among them the decommissioning of weapons.
The Protestants still insist all sides must lay down arms before meaningful talks begin. To date, the IRA still says no.
"If these paramilitary organizations were playing games, they could hand over guns on Monday and secretly get more guns on Tuesday," Hume said. (8 sec./104K AIFF or WAV sound)
IRA guns have hardly been silent lately. Police have rounded up IRA weapons stashes and suspects both in Britain and in Northern Ireland in recent weeks.
A British barracks in Northern Ireland was bombed last month, and last week, police said they foiled a planned land mine attack in Londonderry.
As usual, the reality of an IRA cease-fire in coming days is anyone's guess. Even as some politicians talk of peace, others warn of the possibility of a renewed terror campaign in the days before Christmas.
Related sites: Note: Pages will open in a new browser window
External sites are not endorsed by CNN Interactive.
© 1996 Cable News Network, Inc.
All Rights Reserved.