Friday, July 29, 2005

The Beginnings of Peace in N. Ireland?

I hope so. All people of goodwill should hope so. Reuters has the story here. The UK raises the stakes as the IRA, for the first time, calls on its members to surrender their arms. The UK's removal of the Northern Ireland army towers provides the symbolic gesture that shows Great Britain keeps its words:
Britain began dismantling Northern Ireland army watchposts -- symbols of its military presence -- on Friday after a pledge by Irish republican guerrillas to down arms revived peace efforts in the province.

The move made good on commitments by Britain and Ireland to carry out promises delayed by the Irish Republican Army's past failure to disarm and came as work resumed to secure a political deal that would restore a suspended regional government.

Pulling down the eight hill-top watchtowers along the Irish border is one of the actions long demanded by Irish nationalists to normalize life in a province slowly emerging from a 30-year conflict in which 3,600 people were killed.

"In light of yesterday's developments, the Chief Constable and I have decided that a further reduction in security profile is possible," General Commanding Officer Reddy Watt said.

The move put pressure on the IRA to fulfil its side of the deal by dumping the huge arsenal of guns and explosives that sustained its fight for a united Ireland until a 1997 cease-fire.

It has given no timetable but The Irish Times quoted government sources on Friday as saying Dublin hoped the IRA's entire arsenal, which it said has been centralized in a number of munitions dumps, could be destroyed by the end of August.

The newspaper said there were "strong indications" the first act of decommissioning could be days away.
The hardliners in N. Ireland--staunch Irish Protestants that support Great Britain's continued presences in the six counties--benefit from the status quo. Will there be sufficient enough pressure on them to support changes, now that the IRA has finally relented? The signs are not encouraging:
Much further off is any revival of a local assembly put on ice three years ago over the IRA's reluctance to scrap its arms. The Democratic Unionist Party refuses even to talk to the province's main Catholic party Sinn Fein until the IRA disarms fully.

"We will judge the IRA's bona fides over the next months and years based on its behavior and activity," said firebrand cleric Ian Paisley, leader of the DUP.
Years? There had better be a return to regional rule, as called for in the Good Friday Accords, once the IRA has surrendered their arms, Mr. Paisley. Or would you prefer to present a pretext for the Irish terrorists on both sides of the religious divide to seize? Are you truly interested in peace, sir? Or is dominion the only state you continue to desire?

The IRA and Protestant Para-military terrorists have called the shots for too long. Northern Ireland has the opportunity to establish a lasting peace. I pray that pointless sectarian politics play no part in preventing it. The Irish Catholics of Northern Ireland certainly have many legitimate grievances. However, the violence of terrorism is no longer the way they can announce these grievances. May Mr. Paisly and his Democratic Unionist Party honestly seek the best interests of all the people of Northern Ireland. As soon as the UN verifies that the IRA has disarmed, The DUP and Sinn Fein should sit and negotiate. The Irish people of the northern six counties deserve no less.