Pro-British party accepts Sinn Fein in N. Irish government
Sinn Fein renounces violence
November 16, 1999
BELFAST, Northern Ireland (CNN) -- Northern Ireland appeared back on a path toward ending decades of political violence Tuesday as leaders of its largest pro-British party agreed to accept nationalist Sinn Fein in a Northern Irish government.
Sinn Fein followed the statement by Ulster Unionist Party leader David Trimble with one of its own opposing the use of violence to achieve its political goals.
"It is our belief that the establishment of new political institutions and the disarmament of all paramilitary organizations will herald a new beginning for all sections of our people -- a new peaceful, democratic society where political objectives are pursued solely through democratic means, free from the use or threat of force," Trimble said.
The UUP's agreement to accept Sinn Fein depends on the Irish Republican Army's willingness to begin discussions with an independent disarmament commission -- a commitment the IRA is expected to make later this week.
Under the 1998 Good Friday peace agreement, Sinn Fein, the UUP and other parties were supposed to establish a joint government in July, 1999, to end three decades of direct rule from London. Trimble's party refused to take its seats without a commitment from Sinn Fein that the IRA would give up their weapons. That government collapsed on its first day.
Sinn Fein is the political arm of the Irish nationalist movement.
The Good Friday pact calls for an all-party administration in Northern Ireland, under British rule. The mostly-Catholic nationalists oppose British rule in Northern Ireland. The largely Protestant unionists want to the province to remain part of Britain.
IRA expected to contact disarmament group
Within a few days, the IRA is expected to announce the appointment of a senior official to handle contacts with the disarmament commission, led by Canadian Gen. John de Chastelain.
If that occurs, "The way will then be clear for the establishment of the political institutions envisaged in the Belfast Agreement," Trimble said.
The IRA's recognition of the Good Friday pact raises hopes that the paramilitary group will begin to give up its weapons in early 2000.
But IRA leaders would not confirm Monday if they had made such an agreement, and Unionist leaders said they had received no assurances from the militant group.
Former U.S. Sen George Mitchell, who brokered the agreement, returned to the bargaining table 10 weeks ago to breathe new life into the process after the July government failed. He had said Monday he expected a deal soon.
"I believe that the parties now understand each other's concerns and requirements far better than before and are committed to resolving the current impasse," he said. "I am increasingly confident that a way will be found to do so."
Northern Ireland negotiator Mitchell optimistic
The Irish News
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