Associated Press

September 3, 1994

BELFAST, Northern Ireland (AP) -- Irish Prime Minister Albert Reynolds urged Northern Ireland's wary Protestants on Saturday to take part in the peace process, and appealed to Protestant gunmen to join the IRA in a truce.

British leader John Major, meanwhile, said that although he was encouraged by the IRA's 3-day-old cease-fire, he would not be rushed into making concessions in return.

Reynolds said he believes the IRA cease-fire will hold despite provocations from Protestant extremists, who killed a Roman Catholic man in Belfast on Thursday night.

The IRA cease-fire was in its third day Saturday with no reports of violations.

Despite assurances from the British and Irish governments that Northern Ireland will stay in the United Kingdom as long as as a majority of its people wish, Protestant unionists are wary of joining any process acceptable to the [Roman Catholic ... JP ]IRA, which has tried to unify Ireland by force.

Writing in the Sunday Express newspaper, Major assured Protestants he had made no secret promises to the [ Roman Catholic .... JP ] IRA, and indicated he would not be rushed into any agreement.

Reynolds got a boost for his peace efforts when Vice President Al Gore confirmed Saturday he had accepted the Irish leader's invitation for a meeting.

Gore's office in Washington said he would stop at Ireland's Shannon Airport on Wednesday on his return from the U.N. population conference in Cairo, Egypt.

Reynolds has seized the initiative since the IRA announced a "complete cessation of military operations" on Wednesday. He has pressed ahead with plans for a Forum for Peace and Reconciliation which will include Sinn Fein, the IRA's political allies.

Although British officials have welcomed the IRA cease-fire, Prime Minister John Major has called for the IRA to confirm that it is permanent.

Major has promised to open preliminary talks with the IRA's allies in the Sinn Fein party within three months of a permanent cease-fire.

U.S. Rep. Richard E. Neal, D-Mass., said in Belfast on Saturday that he believed the international attention on the IRA would keep it from going back to killing.

The same global spotlight would make it very hard "as a practical political matter" for the Protestant militias "to justify a campaign of violence," he added.

The recent killings underscored the long, rough road that lies ahead for peacemakers after 25 years of violence and more than 3,100 deaths.

David Trimble, a lawmaker from the Ulster Unionist Party, the main Protestant party in Northern Ireland, said the Protestant majority is deeply skeptical of [Roman Catholic ... JP] IRA intentions.

The Rev. Ian Paisley, leader of the smaller Democratic Unionist Party, has denounced the peace moves as the road to civil war. But Ulster Unionist leader James Molyneaux has responded cautiously.