Talks incur lofty emotions in Northern Ireland

The Associated Press

DUBLIN, Ireland After their first face-to-face meeting, Ireland's prime minister and the leader of the IRA's political partner made a joint commitment Tuesday to "peaceful methods of resolving our political problems."

The talks angered Protestants and got a cool response from Britain, where Prime Minister John Major also had a run-in with hard-line Protestant leader Ian Paisley. Paisley accused Major of "shouting and interrupting" him during the 10-minute meeting.

The two sessions mirrored divisions over bringing peace to Northern Ireland despite a cease-fire declared by the Irish Republican Army, which has been fighting to end British rule of the province.

In Dublin, Prime Minister Albert Reynolds and Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams said they were "totally and absolutely committed to democratic and peaceful methods of resolving our political problems." They stopped short of stipulating a permanent cease-fire, as demanded by Major.

The British prime minister abruptly left a meeting in London with Paisley after the Northern Ireland politician refused to say he believed Major's pledge that there had been no secret deals with the IRA.

Paisley, leader of the small Democratic Unionist Party, said Major shouted at him, " 'Get out of this room. Never come back until you're prepared to say I speak the truth.'

"I wonder how many members of Parliament could stand up and say they believe every word that John Major speaks," Paisley told reporters.

Sir Patrick Mayhew, Britain's top official in Northern Ireland, also attended the meeting at Major's Downing Street office. He said Major had repeatedly asked Paisley if he believed him.

"The answer was not forthcoming," said Mayhew. "The prime minister said he saw no purpose whatsoever in answering ... any questions put by somebody who declined to accept the word of the British prime minister."

In Dublin, the Reynolds-Adams statement was endorsed by John Hume, leader of Northern Ireland's main Roman Catholic political party, who was also at that meeting.

The session came just six days after the IRA announced a truce.

The 90-minute meeting, which began with a handshake between Adams and Reynolds, underlined the huge political change wrought by the cease-fire.

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