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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Britain Set On Ousting Sinn Fein From Talks

DUBLIN, Ireland -- Britain on Monday formally called for Sinn Fein to be expelled from Northern Irish peace talks after police linked the party's IRA guerrilla allies to two killings in Belfast.

Northern Ireland Secretary Mo Mowlam launched the procedure that could lead to Sinn Fein's expulsion by issuing an indictment during the opening session of three days of talks in Dublin, a spokesman said.

The indictment was accepted by the chairman of the talks, former U.S. Senator George Mitchell, as the latest round opened in Dublin.

Sinn Fein officials reacted angrily to the British government's move, which raised fresh doubts about the chances of the talks yielding a settlement to end three decades of violence that has claimed 3,200 lives.

Gerry Adams, leader of the Sinn Fein political wing of the Irish Republican Army, expressed deep exasperation late Monday at the increasingly likely expulsion of his party from the peace talks.

Adams, seemingly on the verge of tears, was asked by a journalist why he appeared so emotional, and retorted, "Because I am absolutely pissed off at trying to make this thing work."

"If we are out, then what's going on in there ... is a farce," he told reporters outside the talks venue.

He branded the British government's demand for expulsion "a tissue of rubbish."

Sinn Fein's seat at the talks table has been in doubt since the head of Northern Ireland's police last week linked the outlawed Irish Republican Army to the murder of two pro-British Protestants.

The rules of the talks, which involve the British and Irish governments and eight Protestant and Catholic parties, bar any group if gunmen affiliated to it break a cease-fire.

The pro-British Ulster Democratic Party was expelled from the talks last month after gunmen it represents admitted killing three Catholics. Britain and Ireland, its co-sponsor of the talks, have been under pressure to treat Sinn Fein in the same way.

Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams arrived for the talks at Dublin castle, the 13th-century seat of former British colonial rule, angrily accusing London of having made up its mind in advance.

"I know that the British government has decided to put us out of these talks. We are going in there to listen to what they have to say and to challenge what they have to say," Adams said to reporters outside.

He insisted that the seven-month IRA cease-fire was still in operation, and argued that there were "no grounds whatsoever for the expulsion of Sinn Fein."

Sinn Fein shares the political goal of IRA, which has fought for 25 years to end British rule of Northern Ireland and unite it with the Irish Republic, but says it is a separate organization.

Barring Sinn Fein would run the risk of IRA gunmen breaking the cease-fire they called last July to earn Sinn Fein a seat at the negotiating table. "We are very sorry that, as on the first day in London, we find ourselves having to turn our attention away from the substantive business of negotiation. But it is clearly necessary," Irish Foreign Minister David Andrews said.

The Ulster Unionist Party, the main group representing Northern Ireland's pro-British Protestant majority, has threatened to pull out of the peace talks if Sinn Fein is not expelled.

John Taylor, deputy leader of the Ulster Unionist Party, said it was nonsense for Sinn Fein to say it has no connection with the IRA. "They must go. You cannot have people who are involved in terrorist violence at the table of democracy," he said on BBC radio.

One option would be to expel Sinn Fein from the talks temporarily. The Ulster Democratic Party has been told it will be readmitted later this month on the grounds that the gunmen have restored a truce.

The decision over Sinn Fein, which must be made by both the British and Irish governments, will hinge on the evidence provided by the police about IRA complicity in both killings.

Three western Belfast men were appearing in court Monday charged with the murder of one of the two -- loyalist Robert Dougan of the Ulster Defense Association. Police told a Belfast court they had evidence to link three to the murder. A fourth man was to appear in court later.

The other murder victim was a Catholic man suspected of drug dealing.