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IRA Disarmament Revives Hope for Peace in Northern Ireland

"Well Done, Gerry"

Barry Shelby, World Press Review contributing editor,November 15, 2001

Northern Ireland was pulled back from the brink thanks to an 11th-hour disarmament move from the Irish Republican Army, which made history by destroying some of its arsenal. As one might have expected, the removal of this long-standing stumbling block immediately opened the way for the resolution of the latest political crisis. But seemingly, nothing in Northern Ireland comes easily, and unionist dissidents delayed resumption of the suspended multi-party government. Still, initial reaction was practically jubilant. As London’s centrist Independent (Oct 24) said: “This is the first time that a republican group which has violently resisted the British presence in Ireland has ever disposed of weaponry….Politics and peace may, at last, be given a chance to work.”

“What [republican political leader] Gerry Adams has done is provided a way out,” Steven King wrote in the unionist Belfast Telegraph (Oct. 23). “It is time to say: ‘Well done, Gerry.’ ” That is the last thing that many in the hard-line unionist and loyalist camps were inclined to utter. On the day that unionist leader David Trimble was eventually reinstalled as First Minister, an embarrassing scuffle broke out between Northern Ireland assembly members just outside the chambers while Trimble attempted a news conference and the cameras rolled. “Police probe into brawl in the hall” was the headline in the nationalist Irish News of Belfast (Nov. 7). The paper’s editorial places the onus on Rev. Ian Paisley and his Democratic Unionist Party for their “deeply ambivalent attitude towards the verbal and physical intimidation of its opponents.”

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