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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Blair's Meeting With Adams Gets Mixed Press Reactions

LONDON -- The British press was bitterly divided Tuesday over whether Prime Minister Tony Blair's historic handshake with Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams was a step forward in the Northern Ireland peace process or yet another concession granted under the threat of violence.

"The hand shaken yesterday may prime the bomb tomorrow," warned

The Times, adding that "should negotiations fall short of the republicans' aim then the IRA ... remains ready to return to the armed struggle" for a united Ireland.

"Mr. Blair may then regret shaking hands not just stained with blood but hovering over the detonator," it said, and noted that U.S. President Bill Clinton's handshake with Adams in December 1995 "did not prevent a return to violence in February 1996."

Blair was jostled by an angry crowd in Belfast on Monday after exchanging greetings with Adams, whose party is the political wing of the Irish Republican Army, during a meeting at Stormont Castle, the site of all-party Northern Ireland peace talks.

It was the first time a British prime minister has met a leader of Sinn Fein since the partitioning of Ireland in 1921.

"The people who shouted abuse at Mr. Blair are in a small and shrinking minority," Tuesday's Mirror said in its editorial. "They are increasingly becoming isolated as the [IRA] cease-fire continues and the search for a permanent peace intensifies."

The Financial Times said that "though it took place away from all publicity, their brief get-together may go down as one of the defining moments in the history of the island of Ireland, a history in which symbolism has so often counted for more than substance."

The pro-unionist Daily Telegraph, however, expressed disgust. "The political leaders of a small group of armed sectarian fanatics on the periphery of the United Kingdom, who enjoy the support of a small minority of the minority community, are now being treated on a par with the leaders of impeccably democratic parties," its editorial stated.