Struggle for struggle's sake

Northern Ireland: The will to overlook differences in the common cause is not apparent.

July 20, 2000

ONCE MORE, Northern Ireland has come through the main marching season without major explosion. But the understanding, tolerance and mutual respect needed to make its experiment in power sharing a success are not in sight.

The British Parliament celebrated the 310th anniversary of William of Orange's victory over King James at the Battle of the Boyne by renaming the Royal Ulster Constabulary as the Northern Ireland Police Service. But it stopped short of legislating other reforms recommended by a commission to win police respect in both communities.

In the war of emblems, removing the "Royal" repudiates the Protestant ascendancy as much as banning the Orange Order from marching through Catholic neighborhoods did. But it does not go as far as Sinn Fein demands or, therefore, as far as the Social Democratic and Labor Party, the Irish Republic government and others require so they won't be out-demanded by Sinn Fein.

During the Orange protests, "loyalists" stoned police while their representatives in Westminster championed those police. Meanwhile, former terrorist rebels of Sinn Fein were demanding tougher repressions of the mob by the very police they used to shoot.

The behavior of Sinn Fein ministers in the provincial, shared government and, even worse, of Democratic Unionists taking part in it, suggest they are there to confront, not to make the contraption work.

As things stand, David Trimble, the Unionist first minister of this government, is not going to succeed. Serves him right. He was one of the young Unionist politicos who, in 1974, torpedoed a similar effort under the late Brian Faulkner.

Mr. Trimble is today's Faulkner, and others are doing unto him as he did to the original.

Almost unnoticed in the tensions caused by the July 10 Orange march at Drumcree, the July 11 bonfires, the anticlimactic July 12 parade in Belfast and the continuing protests by disgruntled Orange men was cancellation of a visit by U.S. business people interested in trade and investment.

The experiment presided over by Mr. Trimble with the support of both British and Irish governments can succeed, but only with more goodwill and cooperation than are now apparent. So far it is little more than a blame game.

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