Leading Article : Keep Talking: It's the Only Way to Beat Them
The IRA is stupid; and because the IRA is stupid, the peace process for the time being is over. That doesn't mean the political process is over - the search for a new political settlement for Northern Ireland must go on. But the whole point of this peace process as originally envisaged was that it included Sinn Fein and the IRA. After Manchester, it is very hard to see how they can be brought back in for a long time.
The problem for the peace process is this. Either Gerry Adams knew that the Manchester bomb was going to happen, or he did not. Whichever it was, our conclusions must be bleak.
If he did know, the republican movement has been playing a nice cop, nasty cop routine; "He's a nice fellow Gerry, but he's got these brutal friends. So if you don't deal with Gerry. . ." No democratic government can respond to that. Ergo, the peace process is dying, even if the IRA do resume the cease-fire. The image of Gerry Adams as Gandhi outside the (not quite) all-party talks is so swiftly displaced by the devastated centre of an English city that the whole charade crumbles before our eyes.
Few can now take seriously any "pause" in bombing that the republican movement chooses to indulge in. The Manchester bomb may well have been an attempt to demonstrate their position and power before resuming a cease- fire once more. No organisation can be allowed to get away with such crude bullying. Although in the past, other parties to the talks might have been prepared to accommodate IRA qualms about de-commissioning, or clever words about the permanence of the cease-fire, now things have changed. The Manchester bomb and the murder of an Irish detective in Limerick have done much to harden hearts. John Bruton, the Irish Prime Minister and Dick Spring, the Foreign Minister, have stuck their necks out in the past to give Sinn Fein the opportunity to demonstrate their commitment to peace. Now they - like John Major, nationalist John Hume and unionist David Trimble and others prepared to compromise for peace - have been humiliated. In Mr Bruton's words yesterday, "This is a slap in the face to people who've been trying, against perhaps their better instincts, to give Sinn Fein a chance to show that they could persuade the IRA to reinstate the cease- fire."
Both governments will be sceptical about including Gerry Adams or Martin McGuinness in peace talks now. A cease-fire alone will not and should not be enough for the British and Irish governments to deal with Sinn Fein. The republican movement will have to demonstrate that this time it really means it. Short of surrendering its arms voluntarily, it is hard to imagine what they could do to overcome people's cynicism.
But consider the alternative scenario. What if Gerry Adams didn't know and didn't approve of the Manchester bomb? This is in some ways worse. It suggests that the IRA have given up on him, Sinn Fein and the peace process - or at least that those in charge have. The big question then is whether Gerry Adams would ever split the republican movement in the cause of peace. To do so would greatly enhance his international standing but risks making him the Michael Collins of the 1990s, courting assassination by his former colleagues, in pursuit of the greater good.
If he were to split on his own, without taking any of the military wing or public support with him, he would be nigh-on useless. …