The Irish Republican Army announced late Wednesday that it will observe a three-day cease-fire next week in its long campaign of terrorism against the British government to force it out of Northern Ireland.
In a statement, the IRA said it hopes the British will use the truce as a “further opportunity in the spirit in which it is offered.” The implication was that the British should now negotiate with Sinn Fein, the political arm of the IRA, for a “clarification” of the Dec. 15 Downing Street Declaration, which offered talks with the IRA but only after a three-month cease-fire.
Gerry Adams, leader of Sinn Fein, called Wednesday night for immediate talks between the Irish republican groups and the British government and said there will be several days in which to make contact.
Irish Prime Minister Albert Reynolds welcomed the cease-fire, which is to begin at midnight Tuesday. But he also called for a total “cessation of violence.” He did not indicate whether he plans to make any contact with the IRA.
But British Prime Minister John Major, on a previously scheduled trip to Northern Ireland, said in Belfast that the IRA cease-fire overture was “cynical.” He said the people of Northern Ireland want a “permanent end to violence,” not a “public relations gesture.”
Neither the IRA nor Sinn Fein has accepted the conditions of the Downing Street Declaration, which Adams has insisted London must clarify. He made that demand during a 48-hour trip to New York earlier this year.
But Major’s government has refused, arguing that the declaration is clear and that any further talks would constitute “negotiations,” which cannot take place until after a three-month cease-fire.
The IRA announcement was the first time that the group, which demands that the British leave Northern Ireland, has called an Easter cease-fire. It observed a similar truce last Christmas.
Earlier this month, IRA mortar attacks on London’s Heathrow Airport disrupted flights at one of the world’s busiest airports.
The truce announcement was received coolly by Northern Ireland Protestants, who said that only a permanent end to violence would be meaningful.
But John Hume, a moderate Roman Catholic member of Parliament, said Wednesday night that the British government should “leave no stone unturned,” hinting that the British should talk with the IRA before or during the cease-fire.