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Hope for the Far Side of Revenge

Belfast has Tasted Calm and Wants Peace Back on Track

February 12, 1996

Peace is what the people of Belfast want. The blast that rocked the London Docklands Friday took two lives, injured dozens and frightened countless others. It also renewed the belief that violence is no way to achieve peace. Nothing justifies the brutal action of the IRA that hurt so many innocent people who had nothing to do with this centuries-old conflict over Northern Ireland, and for that, the Irish Republican Army should be condemned.

The IRA is not, however, the only one that could be blamed. If only Prime Minister John Major and his allies, the Ulster loyalists, had listened to the recommendations of the independent panel headed by former American Sen. George Mitchell and accepted its ideas to give new momentum to the peace process. Britain and its Ulster allies gambled that the 18-month-old cease-fire would hold indefinitely. They did not listen to the initiative proposed by the Irish government to hold Dayton-style proximity talks on a peace, like the ones that built a structure for peace in Bosnia.

And blame can also be placed on Sinn Fein and its leader Gerry Adams. He should have exercised control of the violent faction of his organization and he did not. The momentum for peace, however, should go beyond recrimination for those who did not do what they should have done. These leaders should all start now devising ways to restore the cease-fire. For more troublesome than Friday's blast is the declaration by the IRA that it was ending the cease-fire. Prolonging the violence does nobody good. There should be no more bombs, and no more retaliation. It is clear that a return to violence is not the will of the people of Belfast and Northern Ireland. The people want peace. They believe in what Irish poet Seamus Heaney, a Nobel Prize winner, told President Clinton during his recent visit to Ireland:

"History says, don't hope on this side of the grave. But then, once in a lifetime the longed-for tidal wave of justice can rise up and hope and history rhyme. So hope for a great sea-change on the far side of revenge. Believe that a further shore is reachable from here. Believe in miracles and cures and healing wells."

The people of Belfast have known for the past 18 months how it feels to be able to walk the streets without fear of an act of terrorism. They were beginning to have faith in a better future for their children and for themselves. It is now up to the leaders of all parties to show leadership and find the way to resolve their differences. The Clinton administration should continue to apply its steady hand.

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