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Saturday, September 4, 1999 Published at 17:28 GMT 18:28 UK

UK: Northern Ireland

Sinn Fein joins peace review

George Mitchell: Called back to lead the peace review

The BBC's David Eades: " There's very little optimism here that the Mitchell Review will make matters any better"
Sinn Fein has followed the Ulster Unionist Party in agreeing to take part in the review of the Northern Ireland peace process, starting on Monday.

The decision came in a vote after a two-hour "fairly intense" meeting of the Sinn Fein's national executive, or Ard Comhairle, in Dublin.

Consent was given but members expressed "deep concern".

The Search for Peace
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George Mitchell Profile
Link to Good Friday Agreement
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Party vice-president Pat Doherty said: "There was a detailed discussion with many of those present expressing deep concern, reservations and cynicism at the proposed review.

"However, despite these strongly held views, the Ard Comhairle agreed to accept the recommendation from party President Gerry Adams that in the wider interests of the peace process Sinn Fein will participate positively in the review."

Mr Adams was also due to speak to the UK Prime Minister Tony Blair before addressing the Ard Comhairle.

Pat Docherty: "There are many problems to be resolved"
It is understood Mr Adams believes now is the time for leadership and risk-taking even though his party is sceptical about the benefits of taking part in former US Senator George Mitchell's review.

One senior figure suggested that without Mr Adams's personal endorsement, the executive would have voted against involvement.

[ image: Sinn Fein's ruling executive met in Dublin]
Sinn Fein's ruling executive met in Dublin
Meanwhile, the Ulster Unionist Party executive met in Belfast on Saturday to discuss their strategy for the forthcoming review.

David Trimble had already said his party would be in the review but wanted guarantees from Sinn Fein about its commitment to non-violence if the UUP was to stay involved.

He emerged from a meeting to say there was "deep scepticism" among some members about the commitment of parties linked to republican and loyalist paramilitary groups to exclusively peaceful and democratic politics.

Mr Trimble said although they would participate, their contacts with Sinn Fein would not be 'business as usual'.

He said: "The approach by the (Ulster Unionist) Assembly party was broadly supportive.

David Trimble: "It won't be business as usual"
"At the same time we are making it clear that as far as Sinn Fein is concerned, it will not be business as usual."

Mr Trimble also announced that the executive will hold a special meeting, following the publication of the Patten report on the police force in Northern Ireland on Thursday, to discuss its findings.

Mr Mitchell said it would be "unforgivable" if politicians allowed the Good Friday Agreement to fail.

Speaking in an interview for the LWT Dimbleby programme due to be broadcast on Sunday, Mr Mitchell said failure would be a "terrible tragedy and an irony".

He said he believed that a deal could be struck because the alternative was unacceptable.

"It is unthinkable to me that after having reached agreement, the parties who support the agreement will permit it to fail. That would be a terrible tragedy, an irony, and I think it would be unforgivable."

[ image: Time for action on decommissioning?]
Time for action on decommissioning?
Mr Mitchell, who helped broker the Good Friday Agreement, added: "History might have forgiven the failure to reach an agreement since few thought it possible.

"History will never forgive the failure to implement an agreement once reached."

Mr Mitchell also hinted at the need for action on decommissioning.

He said he did not think the political leaders or communities in Northern Ireland trusted each other.

"I do not think that they can, will or should act solely on the basis of trust.

"Now I think there clearly have to be the right words but there have to be actions."

Tony Blair: "We still remain with the fundamental problem of trust"
Mr Blair also said there remained a fundamental problem of trust among the political parties.

In an interview for BBC Radio Scotland, he urged all sides to remember how far they had come and to consider the consequences of throwing it all away.

But he also insisted the process was not unravelling.

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