29 July 2005

Peace In Our Time?

Yesterday's statement by the provisional IRA to give up the armed struggle in favour of the political process is certainly a monumental step.

Since the initial meetings of Hume and Adams in 1988 there have been slow, faltering and sometimes obstructed steps towards the political path, rather than the Armalite and bullet.

Leaving aside the technicalities of disarmament for the moment, the stumbling block is the attitude and actions of the DUP, and the broader loyalist community.

Can they acknowledge the significance of the provisional IRA giving up the armed struggle? Or will they seek to rub salt into the wounds? Will they be willing to disarm the loyalist paramilitaries?

Lingering resentment, as embodied by Ian Paisley, will be an impediment to resolving the conflicts between the nationalist and loyalist communities.

Clearly Britain wishes to divest herself of Northern Ireland but the question is how?

If some funding arrangement can be organised from Europe which takes up the annual British subsidy that may go a long way to resolving any economic issues.

The Republic will need to invest time, money and diplomacy to avoid excessively alienating the loyalist communities, and it may have to modify Ireland’s constitution to enshrine some explicit safeguards for loyalists.

The questions remains: can the people of the North rid themselves of age old hatreds? How will they disarm the loyalist paramilitaries?

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