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The BBC's Denis Murray reports
"The mood in the party is one of anger"
 real 28k

Sinn Fein Chairman Mitchel McLaughlin
"We have invested too much to back off"
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Sunday, 27 February, 2000, 03:19 GMT
Peace process slips down agenda

Republicans demand restoration of devolved assembly
By BBC Ireland correspondent Kevin Connolly

Sinn Fein is holding a special party conference in Dublin.

Delegates will discuss the state of the peace process in Northern Ireland, but the party president, Gerry Adams, has said the leadership is now beginning to look at other issues, like Sinn Fein's future electoral strategy.

It is the second time in seven days that the party's leaders have gathered in the Irish capital.

In between, the party has held demonstrations north of the border and public meetings in the south to repeat its call for the restoration of the devolved assembly and executive at Stormont.

Gerry Adams: Signal
But in reality, the impression of momentum all that creates is misleading.

In those seven days the sense that the peace process is badly stalled has begun to deepen on both sides of the Irish border.

Some of the heat has gone out of the blame game which inevitably followed the suspension of the political institutions, but not all of it.

And the very nature of the blame game is a reminder of the depths of the bitterness and division on which the whole fragile edifice of the peace process was constructed.

Unionists blame the IRA and by extension the rest of the republican movement for not delivering on weapons decommissioning.

Republicans in turn accuse Northern Ireland Secretary Peter Mandelson of caving in to what they see as a unionist veto over political change.

The Irish government has said little in public, mindful of the need to preserve its public unity with the British authorities. But it is perfectly clear that if the decision over whether to suspend the institutions had been Bertie Ahern's to make, that suspension would not have gone ahead.

Mr Adams says his party's conference, which was planned before this latest crisis, will consider Sinn Fein's future electoral strategy as well as the peace process.

He no doubt intends that as a signal that his focus, and that of the rest of the Sinn Fein leadership, is beginning to shift.

It is one more sign that momentum is being lost and the question of how that can be restored is yet another to which there are no easy or obvious answers.

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See also:

26 Feb 00 |  Northern Ireland
Adams warns of years of deadlock
26 Feb 00 |  Northern Ireland
Demonstrations against assembly suspension
24 Feb 00 |  Northern Ireland
Adams: Sinn Fein may cut IRA link
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