FROM A SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT IN BELFAST IN God fearing Ulster where is the power and influence of the Church? Cardinal Conway, the bishops, priests, and Protestant leaders all plead for peace but the agony lingers on.
Support for the IRA in the Catholic ghettos is however slowly but surely being eroded, and the Protestant backlash seems to have lost its initial _sting.
The IRA, as Cardinal Conway reminds us, has no mandate from the people. The sadistic campaign of random bombing by the Provisionals is abhorred by everyone except the perpetrators. Even the official—IRAcondemns civilian targets.
"The unanimous voice of the Irish people is asking for peace," says Cardinal Conway adding that he was never so sure of anything in his life.
What he means of course is the voice of the ordinary Catholics — not the nominal ones or the "few individuals" as he so charitably put it, like Sean MacStiofain and other IRA leaders.
Undoubtedly the vast majority of Catholics yearn for peace in the wake of the demise of Stormont and of the start of the new Whitelaw era.
The Cardinal rightly asks Mr. MacStiofain and his ilk: "Who are you to take the cold blooded decision that this agony must go on?"
As the Provisionals see it, nothing short of the immediate end of British rule and a free independent united Ireland will do.
On this subject Cardinal Conway does not think there should be too much talk now of a united Ireland. First there should be a union of hearts and minds in a broad sense. Then the Constitution of a 32-county State would have to be acceptable to all the people of Ireland.
A union. of two territories otherwise would be "a monstrosity and would, in fact,
give rise to greater problems than it would solve and possibly the same kind of situation we have already."
The Cardinal has been taken to task by the President of the Sinn Fein Provisionals, Mr. Rory Brady who has stated: "In his excursion into politics, all the influence the Cardinal can command is being thrown behind direct British rule, just as his predecessor had urged successfully the acceptance of the disastrous treaty of surrender in 1921."
But this is to ignore the Cardinal's expressed hopes for the eventual reunification of the country and the hierarchy's aspirations down the years for Irish Home Rule.
Unfortunately, as Cathal Goulding, Chief of Staff of the Official IRA, once put it "there are too many people in this country who love just . to fight, for fighting's sake, and not to work for the end lof partition."
Cardinal Conway also feels it would be a great mistake to assume that questions like divorce, contraception, or the special position of the Catholic Church in article 44 of the present Republic of Ireland Constitution were uppermpst in the minds of Unionists as reasons against reunification of Ireland.
The erstwhile Ulster Prime Minister, Mr. Brian Faulkner, once said, in effect. against the suggestion: "If you think you are going to lure us into a united Ireland by dangling the carrots of divorce and contraception before our eyes you had better think again."
In Cardinal Conway's v'ew Ulster Unionists are mi ch more conscious of something else — the economic aspect of eventual union and a standard of living and social services. Those are the things they will always talk about.
"It seems to me," the Cardinal has said, "that people in the Republic who are anxious to bring a united Ireland nearer should be concentrating their energies on increasing national production so as to permit a levelling up of social services and other amenities in life in the Republic.
"By doing that they would be doing something that the people in the Republic need and secondly they would be bringing a united Ireland nearer rather than by passing resolutions about contraception and divorce."
"LAW OF HATRED"
The Bishop of Down and Connor, Dr. William Philbin, has also been to the fore in hitting out at the militants on both sides of the divide.
In an Easter message he said: "It is the duty of the Church to make it clear that no Christian is free to substitute a law of hatred and wanton killing and destruction for Christ's law of love and forgiveness."
There was little of Christian love and forgiveness when the women of Andersontown rallied for a peace drive only to be attacked and abused by voluble IRA supporters.
These supporters feel, however, they have good reason to welcome the presence of the IRA.
They recall the incursions of rampant Protestant extremists in the dark days of August 1969 when Catholics were burnt out of their homes and had only the IRA to defend them against the notorious B Specials.
But they seem to forget or do not realise that a new chapter in Anglo-Irish relations has opened and peace is now of paramount importance.