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Monday, January 19, 1998 Published at 19:33 GMT


We will stay in talks - Sinn Fein
image: [ The Sinn Fein delegation, from left, Martin McGuinness, Lucilita Bhreatnach and Gerry Adams ]
The Sinn Fein delegation, from left, Martin McGuinness, Lucilita Bhreatnach and Gerry Adams

Sinn Fein will not leave the Northern Ireland peace talks under any circumstances, the party's chief negotiator has declared.

Martin McGuinness told the BBC progress was still possible despite Sinn Fein's rejection on Friday of the latest Anglo-Irish proposals.

His comments followed an hour-long meeting between the British Prime Minister Tony Blair, his Northern Ireland Secretary, Mo Mowlam, and Sinn Fein representatives at 10 Downing Street.

Speaking on BBC TV, Mr McGuinness said Sinn Fein told Mr Blair the latest blueprint for peace was a "serious mistake".

Martin McGuinness, Sinn Fein's Chief Negotiator, talks to BBC News (2' 17")
"There is a need for both governments (London and Dublin) to recognise the need for a comprehensive and balanced agenda and we hope this situation can be rectified," he said.

"Sinn Fein is not going to withdraw from the talks under any circumstances.

"We absolutely believe that the only way to resolve issues of conflict, injustice, discrimination and domination is by everybody coming to the negotiation table to negotiate in good faith."

The blueprint includes plans for constitutional change for both Britain and Ireland, which could mean an end to the republic's claim over Northern Ireland.

It also includes the devolution of power in Northern Ireland in the form of an assembly for the province.

Directly after the Downing Street talks, Sinn Fein representatives said the multi-party peace talks could survive if nationalists were not treated as "second class citizens".

[ image: Lucilita Bhreatnach and Martin McGuinness at Downing Street]
Lucilita Bhreatnach and Martin McGuinness at Downing Street
Sinn Fein General Secretary, Lucilita Bhreatnach, said the party's concerns about proposals put forward for discussion and the recent spate of killings by loyalist paramilitaries had been relayed during the talks.

Ms Bhreatnach said Sinn Fein understood the "difficulties inherent in the peace process".

The party's president Gerry Adams added: "We want to see an end to all killing. We want to see peace. The way to bring that out is through honest dialogue on an inclusive basis."

Sinn Fein officials speak to reporters in Downing Street after the meeting (3-05)
Any settlement would have to reflect the needs and concerns of all those involved in the talks, he said.

But he added that it was the responsibility of the British and Irish governments - especially London - to ensure progress was made in addressing the concerns of all parties involved.

"Anyone who thinks an internal settlement is going to work, or some assembly with a few nationalist knobs stuck on to it is going to work, is not living in the real world," he warned.

As the Sinn Fein leaders met the Prime Minister, other parties involved in the talks started negotiations at Stormont near Belfast on the basis of the new proposals.


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