Magazine article The Spectator

Ancient & Modern

Magazine article The Spectator

Ancient & Modern

Article excerpt

THE outcome of the Stormont `peace process' over the relationship between the rest of the United Kingdom, Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic appears to be successful. But a peace process implies (one supposes) a war process, and Greeks would have been appalled that, for all the processed peace, no peace treaty with the warmongers - IRA and loyalist terrorists - has been concluded.

Various elements went into the construction of an ancient peace treaty. Decisions had to be taken about, for example, the length of time during which the treaty was to be in force; a possible handover of prisoners, land, and material goods; an exchange of hostages, whose number, length of detention and social status were all carefully determined beforehand (the point being that the lower the social status of the hostages, the less concern there was over breaking the treaty); the erection of pillars in public places, usually sanctuaries, with the terms inscribed on them; and the form of oath with which the treaty was sealed (including such formulae as 'I shall abide by the terms of this treaty honestly and sincerely').

One would love to have seen an exchange of hostages agreed as part of the deal (Seamus Heaney for John Birt? …

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