Feature

The IRA disarms: End of a violent era?

The week's news at a glance.

Ireland

The Irish Republican Army has finally renounced violence, said the London Daily Mirror in an editorial. In a historic statement last week, the paramilitary group announced that it had instructed all members to “dump arms” for review by an independent inspector. From now on, the group said, members would “assist the development of purely political and democratic programs through exclusively peaceful means.” The IRA and its Catholic sympathizers still want the British province of Northern Ireland to unite with the Republic of Ireland, “but in future they will pursue that aim by democratic means.”

“Well, call me an old cynic,” said Ruth Dudley Edwards in the London Daily Mail, “but that’s what we thought they promised seven years ago.” Prime Minister Tony Blair long ago exhausted the words “historic” and “seismic” in referring to IRA pledges. Yet each pledge to disarm was only a ploy to win more political power for the IRA’s political wing, Sinn Fein. And it worked! We wake up in 2005 to see that all moderate political forces in Northern Ireland have been destroyed. Sinn Fein is a major player and, thanks to IRA crime rackets, it has plenty of money. So there’s nothing more for the IRA to gain from terrorism—even if al Qaida hadn’t made terror a politically untenable tactic. Look closely at that IRA statement, and you’ll find it doesn’t bind the group to disband or to give back its stolen wealth. It is an empty promise, “written by weasels for rabbits.”

No one is suggesting we blindly trust the IRA, said the London Telegraph in an editorial. We can wait to see “deeds to match the words.” A Protestant representative will have to confirm that IRA weapons have been destroyed; only after weeks and months have passed without political murders can we welcome the end of a bloody era. Until that time, Unionists in Northern Ireland—the Protestants who advocate keeping the province in Britain—have every right to be “skeptical.” The good news is that this latest IRA promise was, at least, “far less equivocal than previous utterances.”

Yet “where was the apology?” asked the London Sun in an editorial. The paramilitaries killed more than 3,000 people during 36 years of terrorist bombings and back-alley executions. But instead of any regret for all that innocent blood, this “band of murdering criminals” merely regurgitated “the usual stomach-churning glorification of the ‘sacrifices’” of their “patriot dead.” Even as the IRA renounced further violence, it went out of its way to say that “the armed struggle was entirely legitimate.”

Tim Hames

Times

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