WHEN Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams appeared as one of the pall bearers at the funeral of the IRA killer responsible for the Shankill Road bombing this week, there could perhaps be very little doubt as to where he stood just a couple of days after he expressed ''regret'' for the outrage. Some had great hopes for the initiative the leader of the political wing of the IRA and former MP for West Belfast seemed to be putting together with John Hume the much-respected leader of the Social Democratic and Labour Party. The two have met for secret talks recently and had put together their own fledgling plan for ending the 21/2 decades of violence. There is no such thing as ''new'' crisis in Northern Ireland but the ''troubles'' as they are referred to are deeper now. The Hume-Adams plan for Northern Ireland prompted all sorts of genuinely worthy questions about whether the Government should ever be involved with the men of violence. The accepted view in Government is that it should not talk to them until they lay down their arms, which is fine - except that it has spoken to them in the past and we all know will do so again in the future, just as David Owen talks to the men of violence in Bosnia. Today in Brussels Prime Minister John Major and Irish Prime Minister Albert Reynolds will meet for bilateral talks during a European Community summit in Brussels. How to handle the initiative will be a difficult question they must not flinch from. Most now see Hume-Adams as a plan, whatever it amounted to (it has been kept secret), dead in the water. We are already, because of the bomb and the retaliation that followed, back to square one. Even the Anglo-Irish talks scheduled for this week were postponed. Last year John Major despatched Sir Patrick Mayhew to Northern Ireland as Secretary of State, one in a long line of ministers knowing their time had come for the most unpopular posting in the British Cabinet. Ulster has MPs at Westminster now but local democracy is limited. Arguably Northern Ireland politicians prefer it this way because it minimises the chances of compromise. Even when they meet at Westminster, the sectarian divide is so deep that there is avicious personal loathing between them. Meanwhile, this colonial-style Government from London supports the Northern Ireland citizen to an almost unthinkable tune. In mainland Britain we spend 40 per cent of our domestic product on the Government, in Northern Ireland it is 70 per cent. Social security payments, the costs of security and subsidies to attract industry to the province amount to a staggering GBP15,000 (HK$170,000) in benefit for the average family of four. It is also perfectly clear that much of the terrorism that plagues the community is little more than gangsterism, just as the mafia grew out of the politics of feudal strife in Sicily. Nonetheless, this undeclared civil war has been going on for too long with 33,000 people killed or injured for us to continue the status quo course we maintain today. Some leading Tories now believe we must be prepared to think the unthinkable and engage in talks. Peter Temple-Morris, the respected co-chairman of the Anglo-Irish Inter-Parliamentary Association, believes sympathy for the victims of the bombings must not stop the Government proceeding with a proper peace process encompassing the Government in Dublin, even if that means putting to one side the objections of Unionist leaders. At present the talks are stalling and the Ulster people, brave and friendly by and large, find themselves locked into a sectarian divide without the leaders, who democratic local government would undoubtedly push to the fore and who might deny the men ofviolence their following.