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IRA decision a setback



Published: Wed, August 15, 2001 @ 12:00 a.m.



IRA decision a setback

for peace effort

The Irish Republican Army never actually promised to disarm but rather to put their weapons beyond use -- whatever that was supposed to mean. So it should come as no surprise that the offer was rescinded within days of its having been made when Ulster Unionists refused to accept the plan without knowing the details.

IRA leaders, like those of other paramilitary organizations around the world, are betraying the militants' fear that without the weapons of the terrorist, their power will be significantly reduced.

But peace cannot come to Northern Ireland unless and until the terrorists actually disarm. Political solutions are hard to achieve at the point of a gun.

Colombian connection: Nor is it helping that three men, allegedly IRA weapons experts, have been arrested in Colombia for training Marxist guerillas in bomb-making. Should the allegations prove true, the IRA's credibility will be further challenged. Helping to spread terror in other nations is not the way to persuade the international community that your home front cause is just. Such actions simply reinforce the beliefs of those who see the IRA as a terrorist organization which only pretends to want a political solution to the conflict that has ravaged Northern Ireland.

And this isn't the first time the IRA has held out disarmament as its contribution to the peace process. In May 2000, the IRA was supposed to begin disarmament, but that deadline came and went, too.

The IRA is believed to have at least two tons of Semtex plastic explosives, 650 Russian AK-47 assault rifles, 20 Russian heavy-caliber machine guns, smaller machine guns, about 100 pistols, 40 grenade launchers and a SAM-7 anti-aircraft missile. Perhaps not much by military standards, but certainly more than enough to brutalize England and Northern Ireland.

There is always plenty of blame to go around in ethnic conflagrations, but attributing blame for the sins of the past does nothing to achieve some semblance of virtue in the future.

Words not weapons achieve diplomatic solutions. The majority of Catholics and Protestants in Northern Ireland know this. But the message seems lost on the militants.




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