Setback for the IRA London arrests: A few terrorists retain veto over political process.

September 24, 1996

AT LEAST one spectacular act of terror by the IRA will not take place as a result of the London police raids that brought five arrests, one slain suspect and six times the amount of explosives used in the car bomb that injured 200 people in Manchester in June. But the IRA is not closed down.

Since its resurrection as the Provisional IRA in 1970, the organization has gone through metamorphoses. It has been a guerrilla army, urban street force, extortion racket, mountain training program, Irish-wide and largely indigenous to Ulster. Since the ending of the cease-fire early this year when a new group rose to command, it has taken on still a new persona.

The so-called "hard men" who have wrecked the peace process appear to have little to do with Northern Ireland. Some are from coastal areas of the Irish Republic far from either Dublin or Northern Ireland. The young terrorist who blew himself up transporting a bomb on a London bus in February had never been to the North. The bombing campaign that resumed in February has been exclusively in England, except for one mortar attack in Germany. It has stopped the peace process, while so far avoiding sectarian warfare in Northern Ireland.

But because of this campaign, Sinn Fein, the political branch of the Republican movement of which the IRA is the "military" branch, is properly banned from all-party talks by the British and Irish governments. Sinn Fein and its articulate leader, Gerry Adams, represent 15 percent of the vote in Northern Ireland. Without Sinn Fein, all-party talks are not all-party talks.

There is no public split in Sinn Fein-IRA. Mr. Adams will not renounce the terrorists. Past splits brought assassinations over money or arms, and weakening of the movement. It has been suggested that no one wants the onus of causing such a divisive split now. And as long as that continues, the terrorists are running the show, determining events and manipulating all the players who become more intransigent with every act of terror.

Anyone who wants peace and opportunity in Northern Ireland has a stake in shutting down the IRA campaign in Britain for good.

Pub Date: 9/24/96

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