FROM A SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT IN BELFAST
CATHOLIC and Protestant
Churches in Ireland have called on all Christians to observe Good Friday as a day of national mourning, repentence and renewal.
It follows a Special Triduum of Prayer ordered by Cardinal Conway and the Bishops of Ireland which ends today. The theme was "Save our country from its present grave problems."
Peace in a comparative way came to Ulster for three blissful days with the Provisional IRA truce.
Spurned by Stormont and Westminster as phoney or otherwise, it proved at least one thing. The IRA can at will keep or break the peace. Belfast City Centre was besieged by carefree citizens during those three days. They walked the pavement with self-assured impunity, though the Official wing of the IRA had declared no cease-fire.
A truce was welcomed by Cardinal Conway and Mr. Harold Wilson as a step in the right direction.
Stormont, Westminster and the British Army say they will have no truck with the pathological murderers of the IRA but as one courageous Belfast Unionist MP, Mr. Thomas Caldwell, puts it "the killing must stop. Someone has got to talk."
Mr. Rory O'Brady, a Sinn Fein president, also urges "anything that can shorten the conflict and save lives is highly desirable."
As if to show that they can switch on and off anytime, the first of a wave of IRA bombings and shootings erupted in Ulster only minutes after the end of the 72-hour truce. The reality of the situation is summed up by Mr. Caldwell, former colonel in the Territorial Army, when he said: "Not all the armies in Europe are going to stop the indiscriminate bombing which is killing innocent men, women and children."
He has talked with leaders of both IRA factions, albeit unofficially, and not as any kind of "go-between": but the results of these feelers have filtered back to Belfast and London.
The Republican Clubs Executive in Ulster say they have "reliable information" that the new Protestant militant movement, Vanguard, are soon to embark on "selective assassinations and bombings" in the North and South.
A sell-out is what the Protestants fear most. But even the IRA no longer includes instant Irish Unity in its priorities.
And Cardinal Conway has said, "I don't think anyone is
Because of the recent dispute involving a printing union the number of pages in this week's Catholic Herald has had to be reduced. The end of an overtime ban came too late for alternative arrangements to be made. asking for a united Ireland now. I think everyone recognises that a union of territories is nothing unless there is a union of hearts and minds and a union of peoples."
A group of clergy of several denominations are going to Downing Street tomorrow to present a statement calling on the Government to take immediate positive steps towards a solution to the present crisis in Ulster.
Organised by Pax Christi and the Fellowship of Reconciliation the ministers say they are aware of the complexity of the situation but "we nevertheless urge the Government to act without further delay."
The celebration today of the Feast of St. Patrick has brought additional services of prayer for the troubled province.
Catholic, Protestant and Free Churches in South Wales are liolding a joint day of prayer for Northern Ireland. The leaders of the Churches have appealed for all their premises to be open to the public throughout the day to enable them to pray for the country.
In London at Westminster Abbey today, special services arc being held and hourly prayers said for peace in Northern Ireland.
Mr. Edward Heath and Mr. Harold Wilson at Archbishop's House, Westminster, with Cardinal Heenan, the Archbishop of Canterbury (Dr. Michael Ramsey) and the Moderator of the Free Church Council (the Rev. Leonard Champion) after the ecumenical service of intrwcession for peace in Northern Ireland in Westminster
Cathedral on Tuesday.