Related topics

Despite Pleas for Peace, Deadlock Means War in Northern Ireland

April 22, 1993

LONDON (AP) _ Huge protests have come and gone, while enduring hatreds paralyze Northern Ireland a month after IRA bombs killed two children in Warrington, northern England.

Susan McHugh, standing before 20,000 rain-soaked protesters in downtown Dublin, shouted, ″The gunmen do not speak for us 3/8 If enough of us demand peace, peace will come 3/8 It must come 3/8″

The peace rally she organized was one of the largest ever held in the Irish capital and followed the Irish Republican Army’s March 20 bomb attack that killed boys aged 3 and 12 in Warrington and injured 55 people.

Tens of thousands of people protested that the conflict had gone on too long. A new organization, Peace ’93, proclaimed: ″Enough is enough.″

Few in the British-ruled northern corner of Ireland would disagree. But the politicians won’t budge, and the ghettoized gunmen listen only to their own supporters, not to the likes of Susan McHugh.

If the bloodshed in Yugoslavia points up the explosive nature of old grudges over territory, religion and power, the 24 years of Northern Ireland’s ″troubles″ show how hard they are to stop.

″Serbs and Croats are not going to stop being Serbs and Croats. Our differences aren’t going away either. We’re going to have to live together and respect one another’s differences - and that cannot be done by a gun,″ said John Hume, leader of the Social Democratic and Labor Party, which opposes the IRA and is supported by most of Northern Ireland’s 600,000 Catholics.

Hume delivered that message April 10 to Gerry Adams, president of Sinn Fein. Because it supports the IRA, Adams’ party was barred from last year’s failed political talks - involving Hume’s party, Northern Ireland’s three unionist parties and the British and Irish governments.

Leaders of Northern Ireland’s majority Protestants grumbled privately that Hume and Adams were playing ″good cop, bad cop″ on the road to uniting Ireland. Publicly, they said no amount of talk would exterminate the IRA.

Individuals who tried to build on the peace wave have been frustrated.

Methodist businessman Gordon Wilson, recently appointed to the Irish senate, won world praise in November 1987 when he publicly forgave the IRA after a bomb killed his daughter Marie and 10 other Protestants.

After the Warrington attack, Wilson asked to meet IRA leaders to plead for peace. Two IRA figures met Wilson on April 7, read a prepared statement apologizing for killing his daughter - then made it clear the IRA had no intention of giving up their fight.

A despondent Wilson told reporters the next day the meeting had been ″quite pointless.″

Attempts by Protestant clergy to persuade so-called ″loyalists″ to stop killing Catholics likewise have gone nowhere.

The Rev. Roy Magee, a Presbyterian minister, has met several times with the ruling ″inner council″ of the outlawed Ulster Defense Association, the largest paramilitary group rooted in Protestant districts.

Two days after Warrington, Magee said he tried to persuade UDA leaders to retract their recent threat against ″the pan-nationalist front″ - a label that effectively includes most Catholics.

Instead, the UDA killed a 17-year-old boy, a Sinn Fein activist, and four construction workers in a week. The IRA confirmed the dead included one IRA ″volunteer.″

In theory, Northern Ireland’s elected leaders have the power to undercut support for republican and loyalist paramilitaries. The challenge is to find a formula for governing Northern Ireland that accommodates pro-Irish Republic Catholics and pro-British Protestants.

Hume’s Social Democratic and Labor Party refuses to join the unionists in a Northern Ireland-only assembly on the ground that this is what the province had until 1972 - and Catholics were always an outvoted minority.

But unionist politicans want nothing to do with Dublin. They say they will not talk unless the Irish Republic promises up front to amend its constitution, which lays a territorial claim to Northern Ireland’s six counties.

Irish ministers say such a promise could come only in exchange for unionist concessions in an overall agreement - one that almost certainly would increase Dublin’s influence in Northern Ireland.

Update hourly