Britain to push on without Sinn Fein

February 11, 1994|By Carl Schoettler | Carl Schoettler,London Bureau of The Sun

LONDON -- The search for peace in Northern Ireland will press ahead without waiting for the Irish Republican politicians of Sinn Fein to join the process, Sir Patrick Mayhew, Britain's secretary for Northern Ireland, said yesterday.

But Sir Patrick said the Dec. 15 Anglo-Irish declaration has "no recommended shelf life."

"I sympathize with people's feeling of confusion, of mystification and of impatience," he told a meeting of the Association of American Journalists in London. "But after all, we are dealing with a process that has been brewing and erupting over a very, very long period.

"I don't mind how long it takes as long as it continues and doesn't stagnate, and most of all is not brought to a halt by the absence of any party that could have been present but chose not to."

Sir Patrick referred to Sinn Fein, the political wing of the banned Irish Republican Army. Sinn Fein has repeatedly asked for "clarification" of the Downing Street declaration negotiated by the British and Irish prime minsters.

The declaration offers the people of Northern Ireland "self-determination," with protections for the Protestant Loyalist community. Protestants are a majority in the province of Northern Ireland, though Catholics are the majority on the entire island.

Sinn Fein has been offered an "exploratory dialogue" on admission to the talks process if the Irish Republican Army permanently renounces violence.

"What we will not do," Sir Patrick said, "is add to, take any from, or renegotiate the declaration."

Any Sinn Fein response is unlikely until after a party conference this month in Dublin, the Irish capital.

Sir Patrick noted with regret the success of Gerry Adams, the Sinn Fein president, in visiting the United States Jan. 31 for 48 hours.

President Clinton had lifted the ban against visits by terrorists after Mr. Adams assured American diplomats that he was an advocate for peace.

"I think it provided an opportunity that Mr. Adams took to present a one-sided view," he said, praising Mr. Adams for being "very skillful" in his effort.

"I have, however, very great faith in the sophistication and political experience of the American people and I don't not believe the razzmatazz of 48 hours is going to influence opinion over a very long period."

Sir Patrick rejected contentions of Amnesty International that British Army and Northern Ireland security forces were in collusion with Protestant Loyalist paramilitaries against Catholic Republicans or nationalists.

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