Peace in Northern Ireland?


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After 25 years of violence and 3,500 deaths (a proportional death toll in the U.S. would be 500,000 people), there are cautious signs of hope of a resolution between the Irish Republican Army (IRA) and loyalist paramilitary groups, says Sean Cahill of the Arnean Siochan Erieann/Peace Watch Ireland in . Last weekend's announcement that the IRA was reversing its promise to not surrender arms is certain to bolster the lull created by a year-long ceasefire, say observors. Cahill points to other long-term changes, such as mounting opposition among British citizens to their government's presence in Ireland, and increasing U.S. sympathies to the formerly shunned IRA political wing, Sinn Fein.

Yet Cahill also documents plenty of strife -- mysterious murders of Catholic activists, random searches, and huge Orwellian 'peace walls' separating Protestant and Catholic neighborhoods in Belfast. Sinn Fein also remains suspicious of the Brit's proferred olive branches. In Sinn Fein's weekly online newspaper, An Phoblacht/Republican News, Meadbh Gallagher notes that British 'hardware' -- personnel and arms -- has not been reduced, and military 'software' continues in form of civilian house raids, no-jury courts, and other harassment. And Irish anarchists on the newsgroup reg-Ireland complain that peace talks have 'brought respectability for Sinn Fein but little of consequence for the Irish working class, North or South.'


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