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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Sinn Fein, Unionists Quit, Leaving Talks in Disarray

LONDON -- The leader of Northern Ireland's main Protestant party decided Monday to opt out of multiparty talks on the province's future, dealing the second body blow to an Anglo-Irish peace initiative within 24 hours.

London and Dublin's efforts to end the long-running guerrilla conflicts were bluntly dismissed by James Molyneaux, head of the Ulster Unionist Party representing the Protestant, pro-British majority in Northern Ireland.

He told reporters in parliament: "We are at a watershed situation. The experiment which the two governments felt they had to embark on with the declaration and so forth has now run its course."

Molyneaux's rejection came a day after Sinn Fein, the political wing of Irish Republican Army guerrillas fighting to oust Britain from Northern Ireland, withheld its crucial backing for faltering peace efforts at a weekend congress.

Britain and Ireland signed a joint peace declaration in December which sought to allay the fears of Northern Ireland's Protestant majority, who want to remain British, and the Catholic minority who aspire to Irish unity.

Both governments were pushing for a return to three-strand talks involving the two governments and the main constitutional parties in the war-weary province. They collapsed in November 1992 amid mutual recriminations.