. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Bad Blood Simmers At Ireland Peace Gala

WASHINGTON -- At a gala dinner attended by leaders on both sides of the Northern Ireland conflict, Irish Prime Minister John Bruton made a personal plea for peace.


Perhaps a little too personal for Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams, who was in the hall.


Bruton made a point of noting that Sinn Fein will be barred from talks about Northern Ireland's future unless the Irish Republican Army restores its cease-fire. Adams said the talks should begin without any preconditions.


"I have to say that Sinn Fein is a party, and that ours should be treated the same as all the other parties," Adams said after the speech Thursday night. "It would be better for people to talk to Sinn Fein, not to talk at Sinn Fein."


The black-tie American Ireland Fund dinner, which honored U.S. President Bill Clinton and Mrs. Clinton for their work to promote peace, followed recent bombings in London that ended the IRA's 17-month cease-fire.


First lady Hillary Rodham Clinton accepted the award on behalf of herself and her husband. Others in attendance included John Hume, leader of Northern Ireland's Social Democratic and Labor Party; David Trimble, leader of the Ulster Unionist National Party; and a host of U.S. congressmen.


Although peace was the night's theme, the bad blood between the mostly Catholic nationalists and the mostly Protestant loyalists of Northern Ireland simmered below the surface.


The speech by Bruton, a nationalist, was the night's main event. He said talks scheduled to begin June 10 would seek to establish a system that loyalists and nationalists could each call their own.


Bruton implored Sinn Fein to persuade the IRA to end its campaign of violence. "Violence and terrorism are the ultimate expression of nihilism," he said. "I say please, please, please to the IRA -- please restore the cease-fire."


Despite any differences he may have had with Bruton's message, Adams said "we both share the objective and the desire to see the peace process restored."