Sinn Fein rejects N. Ireland proposals
January 17, 1998
Web posted at: 1:23 p.m. EDT (1323 GMT)
BELFAST, Northern Ireland (CNN) -- Sinn Fein, the political
wing of the outlawed Irish Republican Army, has rejected the
latest agenda for peace talks on Northern Ireland, but its
chief negotiator said he would continue to attend the
multiparty talks on the future of the British province.
"We have not accepted the document as a basis for
negotiation, and we intend going to the talks to oppose the
document," Martin McGuinness said Saturday.
The British and Irish governments presented the plans earlier
this week in an attempt to salvage the talks, which were
teetering on the brink of collapse in the wake of a new round
of sectarian killings by both sides of the sectarian divide.
The Anglo-Irish proposals called for setting up a new
Northern Ireland assembly, an intergovernmental council and a
north-south ministerial council to oversee island-wide
cooperation on economic, trade and other matters.
Leaders of Northern Ireland's pro-British Protestant parties
grudgingly accepted the agenda as a basis for talks.
Even though McGuinness confirmed that Sinn Fein would remain
at the negotiating table, he said the proposals had gone down
like a "lead balloon" with his party, because they
essentially represented a "Unionist agenda" to support
"Four Catholics have been shot dead by the loyalists,"
McGuinness told CNN, referring to recent revenge killings
that occurred after an IRA splinter faction killed the leader
of an outlawed Protestant paramilitary group inside the
maximum-security Maze prison near Belfast.
As a result, political parties allied to Protestant
paramilitary groups threatened to walk out of the peace
talks, prompting Britain's Northern Ireland Secretary Mo
Mowlam to visit jailed rebels to persuade them to change
McGuinness said Mowlam and the British government had given
in to Protestant blackmail. And he accused Unionist parties
of violating the talks' key principle that none of the
parties attending use the threat of violence to force the
outcome of the negotiations.
Reuters contributed to this report.