The IRA's Choice

United States Sen. Christopher Dodd, a Connecticut Democrat who just happens to be the Democratic Party chairman, has been among those most avidly supporting the issuance of American visas to Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams. So the political wing of the Irish Republican Army, as well as the IRA itself, should pay close heed when Senator Dodd publicly urges the Clinton administration not to issue Mr. Adams any further visas unless the IRA reinstates the cease-fire it lifted in February.

Events in Northern Ireland have reached a critical juncture. The next few weeks will decide whether all parties have the flexibility and wisdom necessary to finally bring peace and reconciliation to that unhappy region.

The Irish and British governments have agreed on May 30 elections in Northern Ireland to nominate negotiators for all-party talks to begin June 10. The British government, in an important concession, agreed that Sinn Fein may participate before the IRA "decommissions" its weapons, as long as the IRA returns to the cease-fire. But London and Dublin hold that talks on decommissioning must be an integral part of the discussions themselves. Sinn Fein and other nationalists would prefer to go straight to peace talks without elections, worried that Ulster unionists will use them as a tool to maintain the status quo. But Britain could not deliver the unionists without the fig leaf of such elections.

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Sir Patrick Mahew, British secretary of state for Northern Ireland, promises that the talks will involve "nothing preordained, nothing ruled out, nothing ruled in." The IRA and Sinn Fein argue that they cannot trust the British, who they say did little or nothing during the 17-month cease-fire to move the process forward.

Sinn Fein made the right decision to contest the elections along with the party representing most nationalists, the Social Democratic and Labor Party. It should be at the table June 10 when talks begin. It can be. All that is needed is for the IRA to walk through the open door standing before it.

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