Sinn Fein returns to talks and bickering resumes
In this story:
March 23, 1998
Web posted at: 6:45 p.m. EST (2345 GMT)
BELFAST, Northern Ireland (CNN) -- The Sinn Fein party returned to the Northern Ireland peace talks Monday, just in
time for a fresh round of rhetorical sniping with -- and among -- unionists.
Returning to the talks after four weeks, Sinn Fein leader
Gerry Adams appealed to British Prime Minister Tony Blair to
pressure Ulster Unionist Party leader David Trimble, who
Adams says is resistant to change.
Trimble, who leads the largest of the eight parties in the
talks, also took some heat from the Rev. Ian Paisley, a
fellow Protestant. Paisley said Trimble is apt to make
compromises that would betray Northern Ireland's pro-British
Paisley accused Adams and Sinn Fein of being terrorists.
Paisley (center) has boycotted the talks since Sinn Fein
joined them last July
Sinn Fein returned to the talks after a suspension prompted
by two murders that were linked by the police to the military
wing of the Irish Republican Army. The British and Irish
governments suspended Sinn Fein for two weeks, and Adams kept
his party out of the talks another two weeks while he
politicked in London and Washington.
As he prepared to enter Stormont Castle, the British
administrative center in east Belfast, Adams was asked if he
"Well, I think, theoretically, an agreement is possible," he
said. "But I think that means that all the leaders, and I
might say, especially the two governments, have to bend their
will to managing change. And Mr. Trimble, for example, who
has been resisting change, has to move into a new mode." ( 91.9KB/8 sec. AIFF or WAV sound)
'Mr. Trimble is a learner-driver'
Adams continued: "To bring about change in this situation, it
needs to be driven. Mr. Trimble is a learner-driver, and
cannot be left in the driving seat. Mr. Blair has to drive
the change forward on every issue that has been mapped out.
Adams added that "the big question is not if there is going
to be change, but when there is going to be change and what
change there is going to be."
Paisley, whose Democratic Unionist Party has boycotted the
talks since Sinn Fein entered them last July after the IRA truce, scorned Trimble for negotiating with Sinn Fein, which opposes British rule in Northern Ireland.
"Then we have the beating of the chest of Mr. Trimble, and
the showing of his muscles," said Paisley. "And he said never
would he be at the table to negotiate with the IRA."
Trimble shrugged off the criticisms, saying there is a long
way to go before there could be any kind of an agreement.
"There are still substantial areas of disagreement," Trimble
said, adding "you simply have to look at the public
statements to see there is a significant gap."
When the talks resumed, Trimble resurrected a demand for the
Irish Republican Army to disarm as the only sure way for the
IRA to demonstrate it is renouncing violence. The same issue
led to the collapse of a previous IRA truce, and had not been
discussed in recent months.
Trimble also accused the British government of suffering from
"selective deafness" when it came to recent violence
attributed to the IRA or dissident anti-British groups.
He said Sinn Fein should be expelled from the talks if police
found that the IRA was responsible for unclaimed car-bomb
attacks on two predominantly Protestant towns last month, an
unclaimed mortar attack on a police station two weeks ago or
a 1,300-pound (600 kilograms) car bomb seized by police last
"We can't have a situation where people are turning a blind
eye to violence or allowing people to participate in the
talks on an entirely false basis," Trimble said.
After Adams and Trimble went inside the castle, Paisley led
about 30 supporters up to the chain-link fence outside.
He held a placard quoting a Psalm, "BLOODY AND DECEITFUL MEN
WILL NOT LIVE OUT THEIR DAYS." Other signs said "IRA-SINN
FEIN MURDERERS" and "NO TERRORISTS AT TABLE OF DEMOCRACY."
Paisley said he would work to defeat any peace deal if, as is
hoped, it comes to a vote in May.
The British and Irish governments have sponsored the
talks since June 1996, and set an April 9 deadline for an
Northern Ireland Secretary Mo Mowlam said Monday she is
"stubbornly optimistic" that the deadline would be met,
because negotiators will meet more often for longer periods
over the next three weeks.
Correspondent Jim Clancy and Reuters contributed to this report.