BY GAVIN STEELE THE ANGLICAN AND Catholic primates of Ireland joined forces this week to give a boost to the flagging Irish peace process amidst a further round of recriminations between the main players.
As the sectarian violence continued, with a Catholic man from Newtownabbey becoming the ninth shooting victim in six days, Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams said that the conflict was entering its "final phase".
He hinted that behindthe-scenes moves to break the deadlock over "clarification" of the Christmas Downing Street initiative could be bearing fruit.
But Irish authorities clearly losing patience accused him of playing mere "rhetorical games" while the killing went on. Speaking at a joint address in the United States earlier this week, Cardinal Cahal Daly and Ms Church of Ireland counterpart, Archbishop Robin Eames of Armagh, said the movement towards peace was "irreversible and unstoppable".
Ireland was heading towards peace because that's what the people wanted, they said even members of the outlawed sectarian paramilitary groups.
The two Church leaders appealed once again for terrorist organisations to lay down their arms. "Stop bringing death to innocent people," they said. "Stop making children orphans and wives widows."
The two men were in Washington to promote 'Armagh Together', a year-long festival celebrating the 1,550th anniversary of St Patrick's mission to Ireland. The saint founded the first Christian church on the island in Armagh.
Sinn Fein the political wing of the IRA has neither accepted nor rejected December's Anglo-Irish initiative, but called for clarification of key points a demand backed by Cardinal Daly.
Asked this week whether he would take up what appeared to be an offer by Sir Patrick Mayhew, the Northern Ireland Secretary, to provide such clarification, Mr Adams said: "We're exploring that. I won't say I am hopeful, but I have always said we would be flexible in allowing them to get off the hook they have got themselves on. We are pursuing the issue."
But Deputy Irish Prime Minister Dick Spring said many people were hurt and disappointed "at the end of a particularly vicious and murderous week in Northern Ireland, to hear of Sinn Fein continuing to play rhetorical games."
There was a "simple and direct" way forward, Mr Spring said during a May Day speech: "If there are any serious and real issues of clarification that have not been addressed by either the British or Irish governments, we deserve to be told."
Cardinal Daly said: "If clarification is reasonably required, it should be prudently given."
"I believe Sinn Fein and the IRA are looking for help in extricating themselves from the environment of violence," the cardinal added.