Belfast talks must continue

March 03, 1998

This is an excerpt of a recent Chicago Tribune editorial.

WHEN THE British and Irish governments temporarily ousted Sinn Fein from Northern Ireland peace talks, Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams said the move lacked "any sense of justice or fairness." In fact, that is what their decision was all about.

Mr. Adams' protests notwithstanding, Sinn Fein is the political arm of the guerrilla Irish Republican Army, which Northern Ireland's police blame for the terrorist killings of two Protestant men in Belfast last month. And under the terms of the talks, parties must renounce violence as a condition of participation.

The Ulster Democratic Party, a Protestant group, was out for four weeks and was readmitted to negotiations last week; Sinn Fein will return Monday if no more violence is attributed to the IRA.

After years of guerrilla warfare between pro-British Protestants and Catholic factions that want to oust British rule and restore Northern Ireland to the Irish Republic, peace negotiators cannot now afford to let bomb-happy thugs from either fringe have their way. That means the talks must go on -- with all parties around the table after Sinn Fein returns -- unless indisputable evidence is made public specifically linking one of the parties to violence.

What's more, British Prime Minister Tony Blair -- like Mr. Adams himself -- has far too much at stake in these talks to allow his government to manufacture impediments to their success. With a May 1 deadline looming, everyone at the negotiating table must have a single goal: Hammer out a fair, workable governing agreement and put it on the ballot in Northern Ireland.

Pub Date: 3/03/98

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