Sinn Fein enters Irish peace talks venue
Pro-British politicians leave in protest
July 21, 1997
Web posted at: 11:04 a.m. EDT (1504 GMT)
BELFAST, Northern Ireland (CNN) -- Less than 24 hours after the anti-British Irish Republican Army restored a cease-fire, its Sinn Fein supporters were allowed on Monday to enter the
building where Northern Ireland peace talks have been held.
At that point some pro-British politicians immediately walked
In London, meanwhile, the leader of Northern Ireland's main
Protestant party, David Trimble, met with British Prime
Minister Tony Blair to plead for guarantees that the IRA will
have to start disarming in conjunction with any Protestant
movement in the talks.
The talks are supposed to resume September 15 with the
IRA-allied Sinn Fein party present for the first time.
Trimble's Ulster Unionist Party (UUP) is furious that Sinn
Fein will be admitted to Belfast peace talks after its IRA
guerrilla allies called a halt on Sunday to their 28-year war
against British rule of the province.
A Trimble ally, the UK Unionist party, announced that it was
pulling out of the year-old talks to protest what its leader,
Robert McCartney, called "terror appeasement" by Britain.
He made the announcement at Belfast's Stormont buildings
moments after a Sinn Fein delegation arrived to occupy
offices they'll use to take part in the talks.
It was the first time Sinn Fein had been allowed to enter the
The Irish republican party was banned from the talks until
the IRA cease-fire and will be permitted to take part in
negotiations in six weeks if Britain says the truce is real.
McCartney said his party, one of three Unionist groups
committed to British rule of the province, would take no part
in the negotiations except to vote against a British plan on
arms "decommissioning" at a session on Wednesday.
"We will not negotiate with anyone who supports violence,"
McCartney said, vowing not to return unless Sinn Fein was
A second Unionist group, Ian Paisley's Democratic Unionist
Party, is also threatening to walk out of the talks, which
are co-sponsored by Britain and Ireland.
Surrender of IRA weapons debated
Under the British arms proposal, the IRA and other guerrilla
groups will not have to surrender weapons to gain
representation at the talks but must discuss the issue in a
sub-committee alongside political negotiations.
In his talks with Trimble, Blair was not expected to yield on
Mitchel McLaughlin, Sinn Fein's chairman, played down
concerns that all three Unionist parties might boycott the
"I believe those who walk out of the talks will return. The
door should be left open so that that can happen," he told
reporters when he arrived at Stormont to inspect the offices.
The Sinn Fein delegation was led by Gerry Kelly, who was
jailed for bombing London's Old Bailey court complex in 1972.
He escaped from a British jail in the 1980s, was extradited
from the Netherlands and has been on the party's negotiating
team ever since.
Sinn Fein leaders Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness have twice been refused entry to Stormont in the past year when
they tried to join the talks.
Britain refused them entry and had cut off contact with the
party because of the IRA's refusal to renew a truce the
guerrillas called in August 1994, then broke in February
Reuters contributed to this report.
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