Date: Sat, 7 Jan 1995 17:54:23 GMT
Subject: Ireland: War or Peace? It's Major's call
To: Multiple recipients of list ACTIV-L (

War or Peace? It's Major's Call

Irish Voice, editorial, 4–10 January 1995

One year ago the people of Northern Ireland were playing a waiting game as Sinn Fein pondered its response to the Downing Street Declaration that had been signed by Prime Ministers Albert Reynolds and John Major several weeks earlier. In a monumentous year, Sinn Fein responded: the IRA ceasefire was called and the loyalists reciprocated. Despite developments of such magnitude, the people of the North are still waiting 12 months on, this time for the British government's response.

No one expected the embryonic peace process to be either quick or painless, and it is doubtful even this time next year we will have a permanent peace in Ireland. However, at the moment the inaction of the British poses the frightening possibility that we may be denied even a partial peace.

Two parties to the war, the republicans and the loyalists, have ceased military operations. The third—the British—have not. No significant numbers of troops have been withdrawn to barracks; no prisoner releases are planned; harassment by the police and army continues unabated. Even for the most optimistic observer, it is a simple and worrying fact that only the republicans and loyalists seem to have moved toward peace.

The British strategy has been one of doublespeak, charades and outright obstructionism. While talks have started between British civil servants and both Sinn Fein and loyalists, London has been at pains to point out that they are merely exploratory and not serious talks on the future of Northern Ireland. That begs the question: why?

After a 25 year cycle of violence the people of the North are entitled to expect more from the self-declared upholders of law and order than they have received. If the British, as they claim, have no vested interest in continuing the war and are nothing more than benign facilitators as they also claim, then why have they not responded to the opportunity presented to them?

The reality is that the British cannot resolve the Irish problem while maintaining the illusion they are brokering an objective peace. There is no simple Irish problem—there is a British problem in Ireland, and the actions of John Major since the ceasefires encourage little optimism for the coming year.

For example, the British insistence that the IRA disarm prior to any all-party talks is, quite simply ridiculous. The republicans will not surrender and then negotiate terms. It is conceivable weapons will be conceded as the process grows, assuming Major doesn't render it a still-birth.

Many people, both here and in Ireland, have put their lives and reputations on the line in the pursuit of peace. John Major has done neither.The biggest threat to the peace process does not come from renegade elements within the IRA,as the British media have suggested, but from the seeming dereliction of responsibility in London.

It is the hope of every rational person that 1995 will bring us closer to ending our gloomy chronicle. If, however, we find ourselves in January 1996 just commemorating another anniversary in the long war, then John Major must bear much of the blame.

His failure to grasp a peaceful future will be the IRA's mandate to return to a violent past.