Herald House Lambs Passage &milli! Row London EC 1Y 8TC1 IC 01 588 3101 Telex: 881 3473 CATHER G Editorial Director Hon, Gerard Noel Circulation Director sir Harold Hood Bt Advertisement Manager James Hughes
Distant peace in sight in Ireland
IT WILL be a year ago tomorrow since the signing of the Anglo-Irish Agreement. There is little apparent cause for celebration over this anniversary in view of ominous developments during the week.
On Monday hundreds of "Loyalists" from all over Northern Ireland announced the formation of "The Ulster Resistance", a new force which they said would be "prepared to take direct action as and when required" to defeat the Agreement.
The very mystery of the leadership of the new force gives it an additionally sinister aspect, but there is no mistaking the grim seriousness of its "statement of intent" which proclaims that "being satisfied that should the Anglo-Irish Agreement and the ongoing Republican conspiracy not be destroyed, they will assuredly destroy our Protestant and British heritage, we have resolved to band together to take whatever steps are necessary to secure their destruction."
What steps? The continuing message is scarcely ambiguous: "'Ulster Resistance' is pledged to mobilise the men of Ulster into an organised and disciplined force which will neither bend nor budge in pursuit of this unalterable goal."
The rallying cry goes on in unmistakably warlike terms, recalling the inspiration of "our fathers in their day of imminent calamity." This historical reminder produces a grim object lesson for what could happen yet again in Ireland. And the same curious anomaly remains.
In September, 1914, an Irish Home Rule Bill, after years of struggling to overcome opposition, mostly from the House of Lords, finally became law. But it came too late, being amended — as would not have happened in the 1912 Bill (defeated by the Lords) so as not to take effect until the Great War was over.
Meanwhile treasonable actions had already been taken by certain people in Ireland. The men who took these actions, the first in modern times to threaten armed defiance of the will of Parliament, were the so-called "Loyalists." Their cry was "Ulster will fight, and Ulster will be right."
Illegal gun-running into Ulster had established the presence of a force ready to take violent action if necessary to thwart the execution of the Home Rule Bill. This is why there was a retreat in trying to implement it sooner.
The threat of armed struggle by the Northern "Loyalists" was the trigger of all that followed. It was now clear to the Irish party in Parliament and Nationalists in Ireland itself that they would never obtain Home Rule by peaceful means. An abortive rising in Dublin in Easter Week, 1916, was the foolhardy answer of the embittered Nationalists to the threat of armed insurrection on the part of certain men in the North if Home Rule should ever be actually attempted along the lines envisaged by the British Parliament.
The shooting of the leaders of the Easter Week Rising and the hanging of one, is often said to have solidified opinion, for the first time, of the majority of Irishmen in favour of separation from Great Britain.
Now the "Loyalists" are once more threatening what could be civil war on a larger scale than anything yet seen in Ireland, North or South. There are known to be at least 100,000 men in Northern Ireland armed and ready to move if and when ordered so to do. It is quite clear that they have the full backing of the Democratic Unionist Party led by the Rev Ian Paisley but almost certainly not of the Official Unionist Party The British Conservative Party, moveover, has very significantly decided, quite recently, to drop its former title of Conservative "and Unionist" Party.
In other words, the British Prime Minister, in planning the Anglo-Irish Agreement, has been looking far ahead and realises that a mountain of prejudice must be overcome if the spirit of the Agreement is ever to be realised.
On the credit side it must never be forgotten that civil servants from the Republic of Ireland are in daily negotiation with their counterparts in the North and that an eventual solution is possible provided the supposedly most "loyal" citizens of Ulster do not, as they have before, hold the rest of their countrymen up to ransom.
The murderous and indefensible Provisional IRA should now, for their own sake as well as for that of everyone else, cease all their evil terrorist activities. The "Loyalists" have vowed to bring violence into the scene. If they are as good as their word the true enemies of justice in Northern Ireland will at last have been identified beyond doubt and peace may, however distantly, be at last in sight.