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20 March 1997 Edition

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US call for Sinn Féin at talks

by Christy Mac an Bhaird

US Senator Ted Kennedy, speaking at a reception in New York on Friday evening, urged both John Major and Tony Blair to promise to allow Sinn Féin into the Stormont talks if the IRA ceasefire was renewed. Kennedy said there should be no preconditions to Sinn Féin's inclusion.

In Washington Sinn Féin's Mitchel McLaughlin said the time was right for the British government to open the talks to everyone.

``There's an opportunity in the next 12 weeks and I'm cautiously optimistic,'' he said.

``Now that everyone knows the date of the elections, John Major has room to maneuver. He no longer has to look over his shoulder. He's no longer dependent on the Unionist votes. He's actually invincible now and should respond, to get things moving, so Sinn Féin could be in by June 3.''

McLaughlin met with members of Congress and the media in Washington and Friends of Sinn Féin held a reception at its Capitol Hill offices on Wednesday evening.

Paul Doris, chairperson of Irish Northern Aid, welcomed Kennedy's comments. ``The peace process only began because of American interest and pressure,'' he said, ``and the only way it can be restarted is with American pressure. Major rejected the last peace plan put forward by John Hume and Gerry Adams at Thanksgiving. That was a mistake. It's time for Major to bite the bullet and stop playing political games. It's time for Major to take a risk for peace as Sinn Féin has taken risks for peace.''

Doris also welcomed the continued support of the Clinton Administration and its efforts to seek a lasting peace with justice in Ireland, but saw the exclusion of members of Sinn Féin from the White House at St. Patrick's Day as having a negative affect on the process and those who support it in America. ``Certainly the White House can invite whomever it wishes, but to invite Unionist politicians who have done everything they could to disrupt the peace process and to include representatives of loyalist death squads who have planted bombs in Ireland in recent weeks and attacked members of Sinn Féin and uninvolved civilians, sends a less than positive message to those who seek peace in Ireland.''
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