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Unionists in threat to peace in Ireland

"THE PEACE process is in free fall." That is how Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams described the situation in Northern Ireland this week.

There is the terrible prospect that the British government could blunder into a renewed war in Northern Ireland, as it has done in the Balkans. The Ulster Unionists, led by David Trimble, are trying to rewrite the Good Friday peace agreement to demand the decommissioning of IRA arms. There is not one word in the peace agreement insisting the IRA hands over its weapons before Sinn Fein can sit on the executive of the new Northern Ireland assembly. Yet Blair and Irish prime minister Bertie Ahern have backed the Unionists over decommissioning.

There is no war in Northern Ireland at the moment, despite the fact that there has been no decommissioning. The IRA has not bombed or broken its ceasefire. The Unionists—by saying the IRA should hand over its weapons while the British army and the RUC police keep theirs—are demanding the surrender of the Republicans. This could bring the whole peace process down, despite the wishes of ordinary Protestants and Catholics.