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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Sinn Fein Barred From Peace Talks

BELFAST -- Barred from long-delayed peace negotiations, the IRA's political allies got a foot in the door Monday by being allowed into the building but not the talks.


"Sinn Fein are not at today's talks because there has been no restoration of the August 1994 cease-fire," the British and Irish governments said in a joint statement about an hour before the formal opening.


Inside, nine parties -- representing both the Protestant majority and the Roman Catholic minority -- took their places for negotiations chaired by former Senate Majority Leader George Mitchell, President Clinton's key adviser on Northern Ireland.


"No one should be afraid to compromise," said British Prime Minister John Major.


"It would be easy to prevent an agreement in these talks, and hard to forge one. But no one can deny which is the better outcome. and it all depends on you," Major said, according to a text released by his office.


Major and Irish Prime Minister John Bruton said they would not budge from their demand for an IRA cease-fire.


"That position is rooted in democracy. Our insistence on this core value can come as no surprise to Sinn Fein," Bruton said in his opening remarks.


Live television coverage was not permitted except for brief images of delegates sitting in place. Jim Dougal, chief political correspondent for the British Broadcasting Corp. in Northern Ireland, said government officials gave no explanation of the decision to restrict coverage.


Television crews were left with nothing to cover except the Sinn Fein group, which was allowed through the main gates but only to meet with civil servants. Senior British and Irish officials have refused to meet Sinn Fein since the IRA resumed its bombing campaign in February.


Although there were just 15 Sinn Fein delegates and perhaps half as many bodyguards, a swarm of some 200 journalists and camera crews around them as they arrived jammed the main entrance to the Stormont complex of government buildings.


Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams led a delegation, including convicted IRA bomber Gerard Kelly, into the Stormont complex, headquarters of the British administration in Northern Ireland.


Mitchell met inside with the Rev. Ian Paisley, the hard-line Protestant leader who had threatened to walk out of the negotiations because of the lead role given to Mitchell.


In February, Major and Bruton announced the June 10 deadline for talks, calculating that a fixed date would soothe IRA supporters' anger at the slow pace of the peace process.


The IRA had complained of the slow pace of the peace process when it ended its 17-month truce Feb. 9 with a truck bomb in London's Docklands district that killed two men.


"You cannot expect people in a democracy to sit down and negotiate the future of part of their country with people who are relying ... upon the threat of violence if they don't get what they want," Britain's Northern Ireland Secretary Sir Patrick Mayhew told the BBC.


The appointment of Mitchell, President Clinton's key adviser on Northern Ireland, was also intended to show Sinn Fein these talks would not pursue an anti-IRA agenda.


John Taylor, deputy leader of the Ulster Unionists, the province's largest party, said putting a Catholic with an Irish-American father in charge was "the equivalent of an American Serb presiding over talks on the future of Croatia."