Friday, September 17

Reuters | The IRA, Sinn Fein, and Protestant Peace Talks

Reuters | The IRA, Sinn Fein, and Protestant Peace Talks

I am always wondering what's going on in Ireland. Evidently I'm not the only one. Case in point:

Deal elusive in N.Irish peace talks
Fri 17 September, 2004 14:38
By Alex Richardson

LEEDS CASTLE (Reuters) - Northern Ireland's feuding parties have reported some progress towards a lasting peace solution for the province but are pessimistic about striking a deal.

Closeted inside an ancient Kent castle in what is widely seen as a last chance to seal peace and restore devolved government to Belfast, the Catholic and Protestant rivals have until Saturday afternoon to bridge their differences.

"The suggestion that massive progress has been made across the board and we are on the cusp of getting agreement -- that isn't the position inside," said Peter Robinson, deputy leader of the dominant Protestant party the DUP on Friday.

The main Catholic party, Sinn Fein, which is an ally of the Irish Republican Army (IRA) guerrillas, was more upbeat.

"A deal is possible, and there has been some limited progress," its chairman Mitchel McLaughlin told reporters.

Prime Minister Tony Blair and his Irish counterpart Bertie Ahern were chairing a second day of talks at Leeds Castle in Kent, which they hope will pave the way for the disbandment of the IRA.

Security was tight -- frogmen even kept vigil in the moat.

The summit marks the third attempt the two leaders have made to salvage the 1998 Good Friday peace agreement since the home rule institutions set up to share power between divided Catholic and Protestant communities collapsed in October 2002.

Success will depend on whether a deal can be brokered between Sinn Fein and the DUP, led by hardline Protestant cleric Ian Paisley.


Blair and Ahern say this is their final attempt to rescue the U.S.-brokered accord, which has largely ended the political violence which killed more than 3,600 people over 30 years but failed to heal deep sectarian divisions in the province.

The Belfast-based legislature and executive set up under the Good Friday deal fell apart when Protestant unionists refused to remain in government with Sinn Fein while the IRA remained armed and intact.

That breakdown resulted in Britain reimposing direct rule on the province of 1.7 million people from London.

Blair and Ahern say any new deal to break the deadlock must involve the IRA disarming and effectively winding itself up as an active paramilitary organisation.

The guerrilla group, which called a ceasefire in its war against British rule in 1997, has destroyed an unspecified amount of weaponry on three occasions since October 2001. But security sources say it retains a substantial arsenal.

Also pressing for an agreement is Northern Ireland's business community.

"The key thing for any successful or wannabe successful economy is political stability," said Glyn Roberts of the province's Federation of Small Business in Belfast. "Having our own assembly is good for business."

Whatever happens, the talks must wind up by lunchtime on Saturday -- the self-proclaimed "loveliest castle in the world" is booked for a wedding on Saturday afternoon.

How many treaties have gone to hell because Bush could care less about them? How many countries for the same reason? Bush's total lack of involvement in any peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians resulted in the Intifadah uprising. He couldn't care less if the treaty/agreement keeping Protestants and Catholics from each other's throats falls apart and blows up in imitation of the many car bombs soon to be going off like fire-crackers throughout N. Ireland. America is not even involved in these talks anymore. Too busy with the shitstorm in Iraq I reckon. What message does this send to the world? We don't care. Do as you will. We have our own problems. Thank God when Bush got elected it stopped the events in the rest of the world from affecting Americans. No worries under the Bush presidency. Now we have faith-based foreign policy. What havoc a few years and a fool can wreak on the world. Is there any peace agreement that HAS held up under this disengaged, fumbling, war-torn foreign policy? The world may never know. Sort of like the tootsie-roll pop thing.


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