IRA statement reaffirms 'mandate for armed struggle' Hopes for cease-fire for Easter holiday replaced with new fear

April 05, 1996|By Bill Glauber | Bill Glauber,SUN FOREIGN STAFF

LONDON -- The Irish Republican Army quashed hopes of an early cease-fire in its terror campaign to drive the British out of Northern Ireland yesterday, a move that renewed security fears heading into the Easter holiday weekend.

Despite calling for a negotiated settlement to end the long conflict in Northern Ireland, the paramilitary group reaffirmed its "mandate for armed struggle" in a statement released in Dublin.

The statement was released before Sunday parades that commemorate a 1916 Irish uprising against Britain.

The IRA halted its 17-month cease-fire in February and has since targeted London with four bombs that have killed three and injured scores.

In provocative language, the statement maintained: "The IRA, whose mandate for armed struggle derives from Britain's denial of the fundamental right of the Irish people to national self-determination and sovereignty, has made its position abundantly clear. We reaffirm that position.

"The IRA remains fully committed to its republican objectives and for so long as Britain persists in its denial of national and democratic rights in Ireland then the IRA will continue to assert those rights."

But another passage said the IRA "remains ready to help in developing the conditions which will allow for a meaningful negotiations process, free from preconditions of any kind."

The group lambasted the British government for refusing to give a seat to Sinn Fein, the IRA's political wing, at June's scheduled party talks about a peace settlement.

The British maintain that the IRA cease-fire must be reimposed before Sinn Fein is allowed to participate in the talks.

Northern Ireland Secretary Sir Patrick Mayhew admitted Wednesday night that the prospects for peace would be "immeasurably improved" by the pres- ence of Sinn Fein at talks.

Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams said the statement was "not all doom and gloom."

"On the one hand, the IRA is restating its position on what has happened to date," Mr. Adams told Irish radio. "And on the other hand, it is taking a more positive attitude in terms of what is possible in the future."

John Hume, head of the Social Democratic and Labor Party, the dominant Roman Catholic and nationalist party in Northern Ireland, held out hope that the IRA would not return to violence.

"They say they're willing to help to create the conditions in which negotiations can take place," Mr. Hume said in a television interview. "I see that as a positive sign that it is still possible to restore the cease-fire."

But Protestant politicians, who favor Northern Ireland's continued union with Britain, said the statement showed the IRA has not changed.

"They'll use any means to achieve their end," Peter Robinson of the Democratic Unionist Party told Britain's Sky News. "If they want to develop bombs and kill people, they'll do that."

The British government has tried to pre-empt IRA moves by passing tough, new anti-terrorist legislation.

On the British mainland, police will now be able to stop and search pedestrians in areas designated as likely terrorist targets.

Police, responding to security threats, will also be able to search nonresidential premises and unaccompanied freight at ports. Police in Northern Ireland already have such powers.

Despite the new laws, the old fears apparently remain.

Northern Ireland Economy Minister Baroness Jean Denton, told the British Broadcasting Corp. yesterday: "Threatening people so that they have to look over their shoulder all this Easter doesn't seem to me a very great thing to be doing."

Pub Date: 4/05/96

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