Baltimore's Irish gladdened by news CEASE-FIRE IN NORTHERN IRELAND

September 01, 1994|By Melody Simmons | Melody Simmons,Sun Staff Writer

The Irish Republican Army's announced end to violence was given a wary cheer yesterday by Baltimore-area residents of Irish descent.

"It sounds like they are actually making some progress," said City Councilman Martin O'Malley, a third-generation Irish-American whose family is from Galway on the western Irish coast.

The 3rd District Democrat said he was encouraged by the news of the IRA's cease-fire, adding, "There have been truces in the past, but this one seems like it has more to it.

"Anybody that reads about it must be pretty happy and optimistic that some progress is finally being made.

"The people . . . have gotten so sick of the money drain and the violence that they said enough is enough, let's work toward a solution."

City Council President Mary Pat Clarke, whose family hailed from north of Dublin, said she has dreamed of peace in Northern Ireland for years.

At a Catholic relief ceremony yesterday morning that launched two truckloads of local aid to war-torn Rwanda, Ms. Clarke applauded the cease-fire.

"I've got to be hopeful," she said. "Nelson Mandela went to Ireland and I'll never forget it. When he did, I felt that peace could come to that area. He was such a great leader to take time away from his own nation to go to Ireland, and if it was that important to him, it had to be important for the Irish. I felt that the Irish and the Brits had to pay attention.

"I just have that sense of history that he helped open the era that made this possible."

Brendan Walsh, an Irish-American Baltimorean who is co-founder of the Viva House soup kitchen, said he was encouraged by the cease-fire and called friends across the Atlantic yesterday to discuss the progress.

"In Belfast, there is optimism -- but it is wary. It is just another good sign of hope," he said.

"That the IRA is agreeing to a truce, I think is a great step," Mr. Walsh said. "It means they are going to lay down their arms. Now the question of justice comes up. . . . We'll just have to see what the British are going to do.

"People see every little breakthrough as a sign that the Irish people are settling their own problem. We're pacifists, too. Every time people agree to stop any kind of killing, there is always some hope."

Dr. Kendall Myers, professor of European studies at the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies in Washington and an expert on modern British politics, cautioned that "good intentions are not good enough" and that the declaration was "only one milestone on a long road."

"As far as one can tell," he said, "the IRA is intent on maintaining a cease-fire. But the language of their statement implies that they will have to deal with their own opposition. A minefield is a word that comes to mind."

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