Sinn Fein, Unionists Meet for First Time
Northern Ireland’s main pro-British party faced the Irish Republican Army’s political allies for the first time in negotiations--but only long enough to demand that the Sinn Fein party be kicked out of the process. Nonetheless, the session in Belfast marked a milestone in the long effort by the British and Irish governments to get all of Northern Ireland’s parties to the table to negotiate a settlement acceptable to both Protestants and the Roman Catholic minority. Northern Ireland Secretary Marjorie “Mo” Mowlam, the senior British official in the province, must decide whether to accept or reject the unionist challenge. But London has gone to great lengths to draw Sinn Fein into the process while also keeping the Ulster Unionists involved.