Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

A Question of Faith

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

A Question of Faith

Article excerpt

THE GOVERNMENT HAS responded swiftly to the IRA's move towards disarmament. It has begun the dismantling of several army surveillance towers in South Armagh, and promised an amnesty for wanted terrorists on the run.

All this is sensible. Sceptics ask why so much should be made of the secret decommissioning of an undisclosed fraction of the republican arsenal, which does not seriously impede the IRA's terrorist capability. The answer, of course, is that this gesture and it is indeed no more than that - enables all the parties in Northern Ireland to escape from a hook on which they have been impaled for years. The security forces have always argued, privately at least, that it was a great mistake for the politicians to allow negotiation to become paralysed by the issue of terrorist disarmament.

First, until the events of 11 September 2001 even a gesture from the republicans seemed implausible.

Second, senior soldiers and policemen believed that it was far more important to judge the terrorists by what they did with their weapons, than by whether they possessed them. What mattered was whether people were being bombed and shot, not whether Semtex and AK-47s were still buried beneath Irish farmhouses.

But the Northern Ireland Executive was crippled by the refusal of Republicans to give some token of rejecting terrorism. Now, suddenly, they have. It is impossible to suggest that the Republicans deserve credit for actions which have been forced upon them by international circumstances. But Mr Tony Blair should receive praise for his dogged persistence in keeping the ailing peace process alive. And Mr David Trimble's courage and resolution, in holding out against the Republicans while defying the wrath of that dangerous madman, Mr Ian Paisley, and Unionist extremists, deserves warm admiration.

The struggle to create real peace in Northern Ireland still has a long way to run.

But it is right to celebrate a step forward which three months ago seemed impossibly remote.

Shabby treatment THE SACKING OF Jeffrey Robinson, the maths examiner who revealed in the Evening Standard that GCSE pass marks were falling, does little to bolster our confidence in the public service. …

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