LONDON — British Prime Minister John Major on Wednesday made an unannounced visit to Northern Ireland, which was disrupted when Sinn Fein protesters clashed with the Royal Ulster Constabulary in Londonderry.
It was the worst street disturbance in Northern Ireland since the Irish Republican Army called a cease-fire eight months ago. And the incident put into question the first talks, scheduled next Wednesday, between the British government and Sinn Fein, the IRA's political arm.
At least seven officers were hurt in the scuffle, none seriously, police reported.
After the fracas, Major declared that the protesters had participated in "a riot organized as far as we can tell by Sinn Fein." As to the future of the Wednesday talks with the republican group, Major declared: "We must wait and see what Sinn Fein has to say."
Later, Downing Street sources said the talks will probably go ahead.
Major called on Sinn Fein leaders to condemn Wednesday's violence and dismissed their claim that the trouble was actually caused by police, saying that assertion was "absolute nonsense."