LONDON (Reuters) - Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams said he hoped to win peace for Northern Ireland, not just publicity for his cause, at historic talks with British Prime Minister Tony Blair on Thursday. The meeting will be the first for 76 years between an Irish republican leader and a British prime minister at 10, Downing Street, Blair's official residence. While the talks are a coup for Adams, the closed-door meeting has drawn criticism from leaders of Northern Ireland's majority Protestants, who fear the government may cave in to republican demands for a united Ireland and an end to British rule of the north. Adams said his goals were clear: a lasting peace in Northern Ireland and a commitment from Blair that he would coax Protestant Unionists towards a deal for the province. No handshake is expected at the meeting, due to last about an hour, but it will lend new legitimacy to a movement linked to republican guerrillas who twice tried to kill British premiers. Sinn Fein is the political wing of the Irish Republican Army (IRA), and the meeting is the party's reward for a five-month-old IRA truce that has won it a seat at political negotiations on Northern Ireland's future. Adams stressed the Downing Street talks would not provide a quick cure for the ailments of the faltering peace process but said he would be pressing Blair for assurances that all parties focus on future prospects rather than past animosities. For his part, Blair has pledged to take a tough line with Adams and says he understands sceptics who fear Sinn Fein's guerrilla allies will abandon their ceasefire. He said he would warn Sinn Fein that it would be barred from the all-party peace talks it joined in September if the IRA's ceasefire ended. While the IRA and Protestant militias have operated a ceasefire for some three years, dissidents on both sides still engage in sporadic violence. Just hours before Adams was due at Downing Street, an IRA guerrilla escaped from Northern Ireland's top security Maze prison. Authorities said Liam Averell, who was serving a life sentence for murder, was thought to have slipped out on Wednesday by dressing up as a woman visitor to a children's Christmas Party.