August 1, 2005
NORTHERN IRELAND: 'FRESH HOPE' FROM IRA PLEDGE TO ABANDON VIOLENCE
** The IRA's pledge ending "armed struggle" lends hope "36 years of bloodshed" is over.
** "There is reason for optimism" but the IRA must follow through by disarming.
** The IRA's degeneration into "an ordinary criminal organization" cost it political support.
** One possible lesson is that "terrorism can be beaten"--but the IRA is not al-Qaida.
'At long last the IRA is going away'-- Global media welcomed the Irish Republican Army's "admirably direct" statement that it was abandoning its "armed campaign," hoping it would "close the chapter" on Northern Ireland's "Troubles." The IRA "has made an appointment with history" with its "farewell to arms," said France's right-of-center Le Figaro. Italy's center-left Il Messaggero declared that the IRA's recognition of "the supremacy of politics over the armed struggle" can "undoubtedly be defined as historical." If the IRA "does what it says it will," argued the center-left Irish Times, "it will be a seminal day."
Skepticism is 'understandable'-- "After so many false dawns, there is bound to be a degree of doubt," observed Northern Ireland's unionist Belfast Telegraph, speaking for many. Papers held the IRA would need to "match its words" with deeds by "decommissioning" its arms and ceasing "all paramilitary and criminal activity." A German daily pointed out that "the proof of the pudding is in the eating"; the IRA must give up an "entire mentality" that "intimidated and terrorized." The center-right Irish Independent said the next few months would reveal if the IRA was serious about accepting "normal politics," including support for policing.
'The IRA defeated itself'-- Analysts credited the IRA's change of heart to its "diminished" political legitimacy in Northern Ireland's "republican" community and loss of support among Irish-Americans. Northern Ireland's people "grew more and more sick of the mayhem and bloodshed," noted Canadian outlets; "over time, it became clear that many IRA men were simple thugs" rather than a "band of true believers fighting on behalf of Catholics." The 9/11 attacks also "changed the context" of the struggle. "Any support for the IRA using violence" disappeared after 9/11 and the London bombings, claimed Slovakia's centrist Pravda; instead of uniting Ireland politically through violence, the IRA "united Ireland in hostility to terror."
'Terrorism can be beaten'-- Writers sought to draw lessons from the end of "one of the longest and bloodiest terrorist campaigns in Europe." Britain's left-of-center Guardian stressed that "bitter experience has taught that the peace process is only as good as the commitment to it on both sides," while Spain's conservative ABC decided "the State must always prevail on terrorism, even when it establishes the conditions for a definitive peace." The IRA's declaration "shows that the slow, frustrating and unsung work of diplomacy and negotiation can help prevent violence," stated Canada's nationalist Ottawa Citizen, but it warned this strategy "cannot be applied with the same success" against the "motley collection of extremists who adhere to al-Qaida's goal of annihilating the West."
Prepared by Media Reaction Branch (202) 203-7888, email@example.com
EDITOR: Steven Wangsness
EDITOR'S NOTE: Media Reaction reporting conveys the spectrum of foreign press sentiment. Posts select commentary to provide a representative picture of local editorial opinion. Some commentary is taken directly from the Internet. This report summarizes and interprets foreign editorial opinion and does not necessarily reflect the views of the U.S. Government. This analysis was based on 45 reports from 20 countries July 28 - August 1, 2005. Editorial excerpts are listed from the most recent date.
BRITAIN: "IRA Deeds Must Now Match Its Words"
The conservative Daily Telegraph editorialized (7/29): "The people that Sinn Fein/IRA needs to convince about their intentions are not Tony Blair, [Irish Prime Minister] Bertie Ahern, sympathetic American congressmen or the commentators who have hailed so many false dawns before. It is the Unionist community of Northern Ireland that needs to be won over if the power-sharing executive is to be re-established with any realistic prospect of continued success."
"The Unionists Must Respond To This Historic Announcement"
The center-left Independent took this view (7/29): "There are lessons to be learned from the Northern Ireland experience in how we respond to the threat from Islamist fanatics. A heavy-handed policy of internment, not to mention several high-profile miscarriages of justice, proved deeply counterproductive in efforts to defeat terrorism in the past. The government and the legal establishment must be scrupulously careful to avoid repeating these same mistakes."
"A Farewell To Arms In Northern Ireland"
The independent Financial Times commented (7/29): "The two traditions in Northern Ireland have grown further apart during the Troubles, and reconciliation will not be easy. Yet for now, there is hope that the differences that have divided the province since Ireland's partition can now be resolved through democratic politics, rather than mindless death and destruction."
"Beginning Of The End"
The conservative Times concluded (7/29): "The peace process could not, for all [President Clinton’s] charm, work as a private club. There were also members of his staff who saw the IRA as a romantic organization. Unionists, correctly, did not see Washington as an honest broker. There has been no such ethical uncertainty from the Bush White House. The President has made it plain that terror is terror and that Sinn Fein would receive no red carpet from him while the IRA equivocated over the armed struggle."
"Possibilities Of Peace"
The left-of-center Guardian held (7/29): "Bitter experience has taught that the peace process is only as good as the commitment to it on both sides. There must be real proof of real disarmament and real operational changes in the two reports of the independent monitoring commission now set for October and above all, January."
"Only Actions Will Show If History Is Being Made"
The moderate Unionist Belfast Telegraph editorialized (Internet version, 7/29): "After so many false dawns, there is bound to be a degree of doubt about yesterday's statement by the IRA announcing an end to the 'armed struggle.' But taken at face value, it means that one of the longest and bloodiest terrorist campaigns in Europe is finally over, and that must be a reason for relief.... The statement suggests that the IRA has finally got the message. Peaceful means, not the gun, is the way to seek to bring about political change in Ireland. Inevitably, the IRA statement falls short of what might have been hoped for insofar as there is no hint of an apology for its appalling actions over the years.... Nonetheless, it does seem that--as a new onslaught by Islamic extremists is beginning in Britain--the IRA's ruthless campaign is at last at an end.... The pity is that it has taken the IRA 11 tedious years to progress from a cease-fire to full disarmament.... While dissidents still pose a danger, the Sinn Fein leadership has effectively marginalized them.... Much will hinge on the speed with which the decommissioning process is completed.... The IRA's actions still have to match its words, but there is no doubt that internationally, this statement will be regarded as a major step forward. Against this background, unionists need to be careful as to how they respond. While it is perfectly reasonable for the unionist parties to wait to see what emerges from the statement, they should not adopt an unduly begrudging or negative stance.... Unionists are entitled to remain skeptical, but that should not prevent them from adopting a positive approach to the way ahead. This is not a time for any party to shut doors in people's faces."
"How Does An Illegal Army Become A 'Lawful' Organization?"
Eric Waugh wrote in the moderate Unionist Belfast Telegraph (Internet version, 7/29): "How does an illegal army, refusing to recognize the legitimacy of two governments and ready in the recent past to murder the servants of both, become a 'lawful' organization? The crux of the new situation created by the IRA's formal closure of its campaign is what happens to itself. The clear burden of its statement is that it will continue to exist. This poses a grave difficulty for the drive which will now be renewed to get the political show in Northern Ireland back on the road.... If the IRA continues to exist, however much in the background of affairs, its critics will continue to question its status. An army is...not democratic. When it denies itself the option of force it becomes irrelevant. The difficult question for republicans, then, will be: why is the IRA not to disband? Its critics, of course, will speculate at once that a campaign called off can be as easily revived.... Arms dumped, after all, can be replaced.... The Prime Minister, naturally, has boosted the statement as an historic event. But it may be rather premature to exercise that judgment.... Now the nature of the necessary miracle begins to take shape. Reduced to fundamentals, it consists of a requirement that Irish republicans agree to dissent from the current constitution of Northern Ireland democratically; in effect, that they become comrades of mainstream SDLP, the SNP and Plaid Cymru--until such time as the said republicans become persuasive enough to command a convincing electoral majority within this part of the British state. This means that, in the meantime, to become 'lawful' they must observe its laws; not oppose the armed forces of the State.... They must join its police force; play a full part in Parliament, according to the will of the electorate; and its representatives accord a modicum of courtesy to the head of state and her family on ceremonial occasions."
"Step Closer To Goal Of Lasting Peace"
The center-left, moderate nationalist Irish News editorialized (7/29): "IRA members have been told to dump their arms and not to engage 'in any other activities whatsoever.' In other words, no more murders, punishment attacks, targeting, robberies or anything else which is unacceptable in a democratic society. These activities could never be justified and should have stopped long ago. However, we must deal with where we are now and republicans can expect rigorous scrutiny in the weeks and months ahead to see if they are adhering to the spirit and letter of this statement.... While the Irish and British governments, along with the U.S. administration, have reacted positively to yesterday's developments, republicans should not be surprised at the skepticism which is rife among unionists. Indeed, events such as the killing of Robert McCartney and the Northern Bank robbery will make it harder for many people--and not just unionists--to accept that republicans have fully embraced peaceful and democratic methods. Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams has called for all elements of the Good Friday Agreement to be implemented, which is absolutely vital. However, it is disappointing that he did not signal an intention to support the new policing arrangements which are a central element of that agreement. He may be adopting this delaying position for tactical reasons but this is simply deferring the inevitable. But there can be little doubt this statement is a watershed in terms of the history of violent republicanism. With the IRA off the stage, the focus must now be on the loyalist paramilitaries who are running amok. They pose a serious threat, not just in their own districts where they are exercising a sinister authority, but also in nationalist areas where Catholics have reason to fear their malign attention. It is time the various loyalist groupings disarmed, disbanded and disappeared for good."
"No More Deceit, We Want Action"
The center-right, unionist News Letter had this to say (7/29): "Only a man of Tony Blair’s double standards could claim to be spearheading the war on terror while acting, as he did yesterday, as a cheerleader for the Provisional IRA--an organization which has murdered more than 1800 people over the past 35 years. Along with his Dublin counterpart Bertie Ahern, he was among the so-called great and good who were falling over themselves to give plaudits to a gang of criminals for announcing that they are no longer going to murder innocent people. The IRA statement, while a seismic shift in republican policy and ideology on the 'armed struggle' concept, contained too many gaps and omissions for law-abiding people in Northern Ireland to take comfort. They did not say the war was over nor apologize to their victims while the IRA structure is to remain in place. They still hold themselves outside the law and offer no support for policing while their decommissioning scheme falls short of the minimum demands of unionism.... The IRA statement, fawned on by the political establishments in London, Dublin, Washington and Brussels, was longer and paradoxically, less convoluted than what is normally expressed by this shadowy and sinister organization.... Clearly the IRA is not disbanding and the statement, far from apologizing for the heinous deeds committed against innocent victims by members over the last 35 years, reiterates that the armed struggle was entirely legitimate--a view that will grate the vast majority of people, both unionist and nationalist.... Actions speak louder than words, and it will take many months--indeed several years--before it can be firmly established that clear water has emerged with a movement which plied an evil trade in indiscriminate killing and has reformed to the point where its representatives are acceptable as part of the democratic process."
"Living In Hope Of A Reasoned Response"
The leftist, republican Daily Ireland argued (7/28): "It seems inconceivable that today’s expected statement from the IRA will be anything other than positive--the same can not be said for the response to it. It would be nice to think that calm and reasonable voices within unionism might start to make themselves heard, but the unremittingly negative words that we have heard...are not a cause for optimism. It’s interesting to note the unionist response to British Prime Minister Tony Blair’s unremarkable assertion that the IRA and al-Qaida are not two sides of the same coin.... His unscripted words seemed to be more a case of stating the obvious. Given that the IRA, with its bomb expertise honed over decades, could have caused untold carnage had its aim been to target innocent Protestants, Mr. Blair’s words nevertheless sent unionists into a white-knuckle rage.... We can rest assured that in the aftermath of the IRA statement, unionists will attempt to pin every pub car park brawl and every post office stick-up on republicans in an attempt to invalidate this latest initiative. Dublin has been all too eager in the past to accept unsubstantiated reports by the enemies of republicanism--on both sides of the border--as hard fact. Nationalists will rightly look to the Irish government to ensure that the securocrats who have done so much to stymie progress in recent years do not have the final say in how the IRA and this latest initiative are judged."
IRELAND: "A Long Time Coming"
The center-left Irish Times editorialized (7/29): "It will be a seminal day, nonetheless, if the republican movement does what it says it will do now. And there is reason to believe it may. The worldwide war on terror has changed the political climate for Sinn Féin and the IRA in ways that could not have been imagined a few years ago. Suicide bombing has devalued the so-called 'armed struggle' as a means of achieving political aims. And there is less willingness among the people of Ireland--nationalist and unionist--to tolerate ambiguity on paramilitarism, money-laundering and criminality any longer. There is no doubt that yesterday's IRA statement is different to those issued before. For one thing, the republican movement is in total control of the commitments made. It is not dependent on any government or party to honor them.... This seems to be the most positive and least ambiguous statement ever issued by the IRA's leadership. There is less republican theology. The language is more clear. The corollary is that the words can only have one meaning. The IRA seems to be committing the republican movement to an end to the IRA as an army and an end to its ancillary activities.... A defining moment in Irish politics will be reached if yesterday's words are translated into actions. Then, and only then, can it be put validly to the Rev. Ian Paisley's Democratic Unionist Party that a new government should be formed in Northern Ireland."
"The IRA Goes Away"
The center-right, populist Irish Independent commented (7/29): "So at last--at long, long last--the IRA is going away. Only someone perversely determined to find difficulties could put any other interpretation on yesterday's statement from the Provos. Of course it could have said a lot more.... But all of that is for another day. The important thing this morning is to recognize the significance of what has happened. If words mean anything, yesterday's statement signals the end of the IRA as an armed force.... The statement, in contrast to [pseudonymous IRA spokesman] P. O'Neill's usual pronouncements, was admirably direct.... It is clear, it is emphatic, it is definitive. And it is part of a clear, emphatic and definitive strategy which Sinn Fein hopes will greatly advance its electoral prospects on both sides of the border.... The word criminality is not used. That should not be a surprise to anyone, since the IRA has never accepted that anything it does is criminal.... The import of this is absolutely clear. It means the end of intimidation, punishment beatings, kneecappings, expulsions and all the other invasions of individual rights and safety.... Will this be enough for unionists? If they have any sense they will, like the rest of us, adopt a wait and see attitude. Within a few months it will be clear whether the IRA is living up to the statement. The abandonment of all kinds of violence and criminality, the acceptance of normal politics, support for policing--all these will be far more important than whether we have pictures of arms dumps being decommissioned. Overall there was a somewhat muted response to the statement yesterday. It is not just the unionists who are being cautious. But if the IRA lives up to what it has said, yesterday's statement will mark a new beginning for us all."
"Historic Move Opens Door To Lasting Peace"
The left-of-center Irish Examiner observed (7/29): "When it came, ultimately, the statement from the IRA was unequivocal in its intent. It has ended its armed campaign and ordered all units to dump arms.... It is, hopefully, a chapter that now has been closed. Both [Prime Minister] Bertie Ahern and British Prime Minister Tony Blair welcomed the IRA move in a joint statement, the latter describing it as a 'step of unparalleled magnitude.'... Too often has the word historic been applied to various events in Northern Ireland only to have the promise of peace and normality they held out dashed. Consequently, it is understandable that unionist reaction to yesterday’s announcement was couched in hesitant and slightly skeptical language. But, as the IRA held out the real promise of a normal future for the North, so, too, must the unionists determine that they have a responsibility to endeavor that relations in the community are harmonized. As they hope to share in a bright future, they must realize that they are part of its past, as well. DUP leader Ian Paisley, was, characteristically, skeptical that the IRA had abandoned the armed struggle in favor of politics and democracy. He is quite entitled to reserve judgment on the IRA’s bona fides, but he must realize that as leader of the biggest unionist party he will be judged, too, on the quality of his sincerity insofar as the realization of achieving a peaceful coexistence is concerned. Yet, if he is determined, as he wishes the IRA to be, he must apply himself to the good of the entire of Northern Ireland, not just what he decides is best for his constituency. Decommissioning will be witnessed by the IICD and independent witnesses from Catholic and Protestant churches have been invited to see the process. That is good enough for the two governments, and so should be good enough for anybody else... Yesterday's announcement should open the way for its restoration to be implemented again, such as the Northern Ireland Assembly with a power-sharing executive, the cross-border institutions involving the Republic and a body linking devolved assemblies across Britain with Westminster and Dublin."
FRANCE: "Cleared Horizon"
Gérard Dupuy wrote in left-of-center Libération (7/29): "Since the so-called Good Friday agreements, the context of violence in Northern Ireland has changed a lot; September 11 has definitely changed the political use of explosives, and the brilliant [economic performance] of the Irish Republic can only facilitate a reconciliation between the two parts of the island. IRA’s gesture can clear the horizon even if most observers remain cautious about the speed of progress to come.”
"IRA Announces Its Farewell To Arms"
Jacques Duplouitch observed in right-of-center Le Figaro (7/29): "Unrealistic until recently, the farewell to arms and the end of the Irish Republican Army as such are becoming reality.... The IRA has made an appointment with history. Unionist Northern Ireland refuses to be at the event."
GERMANY: "Terrorists At Rest"
Gerd Zitzelsberger noted in center-left Sueddeutsche Zeitung of Munich (7/29): "The weapons renunciation was not an independent decision: after the death of Robert McCartney in January, the IRA lost its political and financial support in the United States, which is home to more Irish Catholics than the whole of Ireland.... This was not the only crime the IRA had committed. A bank robbery in last December-- the biggest in Britain's history--also carries the marks of the IRA. The more the pseudo-political legitimacy for the terrorism diminished and the political conflict lost significance after the Good Friday agreement, the more the IRA degenerated into an ordinary criminal organization. Since the bank robbery, Ireland's government also took discreet but massive actions against the IRA. Like the IRA, Dublin wants the reunification of the south and the north, but, given that its political wing gained more influence in the republic, the IRA has become too powerful and too eerie. The southern political elite is horrified by the idea of a unified Ireland under the leadership of Sinn Fein."
Thomas Kielinger observed in right-of-center Die Welt of Berlin (7/29): "We welcome the message, particularly against the background of the current terrorist threat that has reached England. However, the saying is right that the proof of the pudding lies in the eating. We want to see proof for the conversion to peace. The disarmament is difficult enough if Ian Paisley and his Democratic Unionist Party insist that pictures only must be acceptable as evidence.... More than the destruction of arsenals must be done. An entire mentality--one that intimidated and terrorized people by the use of weapons--must be renounced. Peace in Northern Ireland is the great goal. It is good that the IRA has made the first move."
Peter Sturm commented in center-right Frankfurter Allgemeine (7/29): "The IRA's serious mistakes accelerated the disarmament. The killing of a Catholic a few months ago and the disclosure that Columbian rebels trained IRA terrorists had a very negative effect on the public opinion. The IRA gambled away the support for its cause, especially in the U.S., which was important for the IRA's funding. Northern Ireland's problem is now that recent elections strengthened extremists on both sides. The moderate David Trimble is one of the Protestant victims. The political future of the province still depends on whether fire and water can be combined.... But they [Protestants and Catholics] should achieve to live together in peace. The people have clearly told their politicians that they do not want to return to the time of violence. However, it is not an exaggerated prediction that it will take a generation until peace is created."
ITALY: "The IRA Announces Disarmament"
Pro-government, elite daily Il Foglio observed (7/29): "The official and definitive renunciation of the use of terrorism on the part of the IRA came in a country that is in full bomb alert.... Northern Irish policy is influenced by the firm international denunciation of terrorism that followed the attacks of September 11. For decades the U.S. administration had closed an eye to the activities of the IRA in America--one of the few reasons for tension in the 'special relationship' between the U.S. and Great Britain. As of September 11, Washington’s doors have been closed to the leaders of Sinn Fein and the IRA. Now it's Paisley's unionists turn to decide how to react to the IRA's announcement. Negotiations will certainly continue and the prospect of a reactivation of the institutions of self-government included in the [Belfast agreement] have improved."
"The Long War"
Gianni Riotta concluded in centrist, top-circulation Corriere della Sera (7/29): "Yesterday the IRA asked its last adherents...to lay down their arms and to use only democracy and legality to advance the republican cause. The radical differences between Irish Catholic terrorism and Wahabite fundamentalist Islamic terrorism are evident. And yet, yesterday’s surrender, besides historical and geographic diversities, contains a lesson of political strategy to face, and win, wars against terrorism, low intensity asymmetrical conflicts. The first is that the clash is long lasting, over three decades for the IRA, with acute phases and long quiescence. That military repression, police investigations and the work of magistrates are indispensable. That violent persons must be isolated in the community with force, that the code of silence must be broken day after day, by creating a climate in which terrorists no longer act without fear. Therefore, it is up to patient and tireless political mediation...to demonstrate that free democratic play pays more than hatred. The jihad is re-proposing on a global scale what the IRA imposed on the British.... When the jihadists will have to surrender like the 'Provos', the tombs of the innocents will unfortunately be many more than three thousand. But if the joint counteroffensive of force and reason is shared, then the outcome for the terrorists is inescapable: strategic defeat, complete ruin."
"The IRA Throws Away Its Weapons"
Marco Niada noted from London in leading business daily Il Sole-24 Ore (7/29): "According to experts, if everything goes smoothly we will need at least six months to verify that commitments follow words.... There are no hopes for the resumption of the Stormont Parliament before spring of next year. But, at this point time is a less important factor. What matters is that things have taken a new direction. After 30 years of violence that brought 3,600 deaths, a new era is unfolding."
"The IRA Abandons Armed Fight"
Roberto Bertinetti remarked in Rome's center-left daily Il Messaggero (7/29): "Seven years of negotiations, of closed meetings, and of discrete mediations have produced a result that, in Ulster, can undoubtedly be defined as historical: the recognition on the part of the IRA of the supremacy of politics over the armed struggle. It is as an indispensable premise to recommence the dialogue between Catholics and Protestants.... Yesterday’s announcement...without a doubt opens a new phase for Ulster, although it will not be easy to reach a peace agreement...capable of healing the very deep wounds opened between the two communities in the course of a bloody civil war begun in the first decades of the last century."
RUSSIA: "IRA Goes Out Of Business"
Aleksandr Samokhotkin wrote in reformist Vremya Novostey (7/29): "The fact that the IRA has at least twice declared a cease-fire before overshadows Prime Minister Tony Blair’s satisfaction with a 'step of unprecedented significance.' The IRA's breakaway groups uncontrolled by the central leadership are responsible for some 2,000 human lives destroyed in terrorist attacks. Even so, the Irish Republicans are no jihad soldiers.... The IRA's is a noble deed, as it enables the British police to concentrate on hunting down Islamic militants."
AUSTRIA: "Words And Deeds"
Martin Alioth wrote in independent Der Standard (7/29): "The wording of the IRA declaration issued Thursday meets high expectations. An organization that understands itself as the only legitimate authority on the Irish island has declared it has ended its existence as a paramilitary group. 'The armed fight was legitimate. We are aware that many people suffered in this conflict.' That was all the IRA had to say about its victims. The Irish Republican Army's weapons that for years blocked the political process will now be disposed of. Since nobody knows how large these arsenals originally were, nobody will be able to say with certainty that all weapons were destroyed. New guns and explosives are easy to come by. What is important are the IRA's long-term intentions and those can only be measured against their actions.... The next few months will bring clarity. The real test is not the rusty weapons but the unconditional support of Sinn Fein and the new veterans' association called IRA for the police in Northern Ireland. Only that will end the war."
"An Historic Ray Of Light In The Shadow Of The London Terror"
Erhard M. Hutter commented in mass-circulation provincial daily Kleine Zeitung (7/29): "The timing was not randomly chosen: while London, after two terror attacks, is preparing for a time of Islamic terror, the Irish Republican Army (IRA) has credibly pledged to end its more than 30-year-long terror campaign once and for all.... [It is] indeed an extraordinary day for the people of Northern Ireland. The IRA, which terrorized the population for so long, has announced its renunciation of armed conflict in favor of democratic and peaceful means.... The Unionists might criticize the IRA's statement and distrust its offer, but they can't ignore it."
CZECH REPUBLIC: "Good Terrorists?"
Pavel Masa opined in center-right Lidove Noviny (7/29): "It looks like evidence of mercy. Members of the IRA ceased their violent fight against the British government. Maybe their conscience was shaken after the attacks in London? In reality, this is only a coincidence of timing. The IRA was internally collapsing under the burden of its crimes for a long time already.... Despite the dubious motivation of the 'peace-makers,' the prospect of peace in the country, which was the historical cradle of terrorism in Europe, is a reason for relief.... The problem is that politicians learn desperately slowly. And it takes too long for people inclined to excuse murders committed allegedly in the name of a fight for freedom before they understand that there are no good and bad terrorists. Regardless, whether in Ireland, Chechnya, or Palestine."
HUNGARY: "Laying Down History"
Columnist Oszkar Füzes stated in center-left Nepszabadsag (8/1): "The Irish case is the same as all national minority conflicts in Europe: a history of grievances. It is a story in which when retold today it no longer matters who was or could have been right in what and to what extent. It is hard even to admit this, not to mention overcome it: he who tries to overcome it has to overcome himself.... What the IRA could not have won by arms it has managed to accomplish through outside pressure. The question is whether the Catholic Northern Irish would have been able to achieve this without arms?... The Irish case is another justification of what we [Hungarians]...know from our own experience: that the cure of all national grievances, the winning of minority rights depends on how much we are able to reconcile. With ourselves and the other side at the same time. And for that we need outside help from large powers, for which radicals have no chance--true, not always those desiring reconciliation have that, either."
"The Next Step"
Liberal-leaning Magyar Hirlap noted (7/29): "It would be hard to evaluate how big a role the London bombings played in yesterday’s announcement by the IRA to lay down arms against British rule in Northern Ireland. In many respects the timing couldn’t have been better from a PR point of view: while the Brits are slowly becoming suspicious of all foreigners, the 'ancient enemies' on the island lay down arms, armed conflict ends, and nothing else only a political fight remains. It is likely that a long time has to go by before all prejudice disappears. Although the opinion of the world [about IRA’s role in associating the name of Northern Ireland with religious quarrels, attempts and terrorists] will change faster than the mistrust between the communities of the province, it does not change that fact that yesterday a very important thing happened which can only be welcomed. And we can root for it to last."
NORWAY: "Farewell To Weapons"
Independent daily VG remarked (7/29): "It has taken 36 years of bloodshed and roughly 10 years of negotiations, but yesterday the Irish Republican Army (IRA) finally proclaimed that they have put violence behind them and from now on will seek purely political solutions.... Is the IRA serious this time around? They have convinced a lot of people.... Others have expressed anything from joy to reserved optimism to sheer skepticism. There can be little doubt that they have a significant challenge in controlling all former members, volunteers and sympathizers. A serious crime problem has developed outside the political core of the IRA. It has already been quite some time since bombs and attacks yielded to gang-related violence and torpedoing to control different fractions internally in the organization. The IRA’s peace declaration also comes at the same time as a new, even more substantial type of terrorism threatens civilian life in the British Isles. The wear and tear on the whole of Northern Ireland’s society, combined with this new threat, resulted in only two real choices for the IRA: either they would have had to be marginalized even further into a small, criminal cult of violence without an anchor to in the people they claim to be fighting for. Or else to opt for yesterday’s solution."
POLAND: "Peace In Belfast?"
Wojciech Pieciak commented mainstream Catholic weekly Tygodnik Powszechny (8/1): "At the time when terrorism has become a synonym of modern evil for Western countries, to use terrorism for a political goal...is becoming not only anachronism, but also an action deprived of any credibility.... Is the IRA’s statement a breakthrough? Sinn Fein, the party of Irish Catholics linked to the IRA, had called for such a step for months. The Protestants as usual are reacting with skepticism. They have their reasons: the IRA has issued a large number of various statements in the past. None, however, was so clear...and so concise in its own way."
SLOVAKIA: "Terrorists Made IRA Turn Away From Violence"
Centrist Pravda observed (7/29): "Any support for the IRA using violence to achieve its goals has disappeared [following 9/11 and London attacks.... The IRA failed to achieve its goal through violence; instead it united Ireland in hostility to terror."
SPAIN: "Goodbye To Arms"
Left-of-center El País held (7/29): "In the middle of the celebration it is understandable that some are skeptical, especially among the Protestant parties in Northern Ireland. Their incredulity is probably provoked by the circumstance that the IRA has not announced its dissolution.... But the euphoria of Tony Blair, and the more cautious support in Washington, is also understandable.... This decision of the IRA is filled with repercussions, above all that this turn can give life to millions of people.... But the British government...this is a crucial moment as they will have their security forces fully available to fight Islamic terrorism, a threat much less predictable and much more difficult to handle and to understand."
"Peace With The Facts"
Conservative ABC had this opinion (7/29): "The only thing of interest of this communiqué is if it really is the final point of violence in Northern Ireland...because...it still reveals that terrorists have no qualms, and not only do not ask for forgiveness for their murders, but repeat again that their 'armed struggle was totally legitimate.' Terrorists, even when they announce the cessation of violence, are still terrorists.... With all the reservations terrorists deserve, the announcement by IRA is good news that has to be ratified with unequivocal facts like the real disarmament of the nationalist organization.... Although there are such substantial differences that should discourage any simplifying attempt, the temptation to import the Irish model to the case of ETA is very strong.... It will be better for the comparisons to be made with good sense and to learn from this the lesson that the State must always prevail on terrorism, even when it establishes the conditions for a definitive peace."
SWITZERLAND: "The IRA"
Le Temps editorialized (7/29): "Perhaps the IRA is hoping to regain some sort of respectability.... The horror to which Islamist terrorism is giving rise today may lead people to forget its own bloody actions.... [The Good Friday Agreement was followed by a] very chaotic [process, but] it is this fragile method whose effect can be seen today. A spiral of peace is being established in Northern Ireland."
EAST ASIA AND PACIFIC
CHINA (HONG KONG SAR): "Asia's Insurgents Should Follow IRA's Example"
The independent English-language South China Morning Post concluded (7/30): "Asia's insurgent groups should follow the lead of the Irish Republican Army and lay down their weapons in favor of genuine dialogue. Like the Republican guerrillas, all their struggles have achieved is bloodshed and misery.... In the changed political environment since the terrorist attacks in the U.S. on September 11, 2001, such groups could easily be termed not freedom fighters, as they would have it, but terrorists.... Pre-September 11, the U.S., for historical reasons, supported the objectives of Sinn Fein. A blind eye was turned to the activities of American groups which raised funds to buy weapons for the IRA. The U.S. could no longer tolerate this in the climate of fear that followed the attacks on its soil and the networks were closed down. Sinn Fein officials, previously given access to senior members of the government, were shunned. IRA leaders have taken almost four years to realize their isolation is not going to end any time soon. They are taking the previously promised step of laying down their weapons as a prelude to destroying them. In the wake of the bombings on London's transport system, they can see the fear invoked by terrorism and have found that rather than inviting surrender, such acts instill a resolve to overcome.... But the fruits of the landmark announcement were already apparent yesterday as Britain began demolishing one of its army watchtowers in Northern Ireland, a symbol of its military presence. If the guerrillas fulfill their pledge, the next step could well be the reopening of the suspended Belfast-based assembly, set up under 1998's Good Friday peace deal for Protestants and Catholics to jointly run Northern Irish affairs. These are small rewards, but nonetheless create an environment under which negotiations can better take place."
JAPAN: "IRA To End Armed Campaign"
The business-oriented Nikkei observed (7/29): "Senior British officials, including Prime Minister Blair, welcomed the latest IRA statement as much more positive and peace-oriented than previous declarations. Under these circumstances, optimism is already growing that a new situation--peace and stability--will take root in Northern Ireland."
SOUTH AND CENTRAL ASIA
INDIA: "Disarming Charm"
The nationalist Hindustan Times editorialized (7/30): "Long before Islamic terrorism came to Britain, there was the Irish Republican Army. If Thursday's words are put into action, it might be the happy demise of Republican terror. But the IRA's statement that it is no longer going to continue its armed campaign may not automatically lead to the beginning of a beautiful friendship between Catholic Republicans and Protestant Unionists.... The irony of one ideology of terror pushing another ideology of terror to the point of giving up its violent ways cannot be missed. After 9/11, the IRA--along with its fellow political wing, Sinn Fein--has been getting less and less response from its traditional supporters in the United States.... Rejectionists from both sides have made genuine peace seekers nervous in the past. It is one thing to sell peace to the other side, quite another to sell it to one's own 'soldiers.' And even convincing the Unionists that the IRA has signed its own 'vanishing warrant' will take effort and time. But too much skepticism is not going to help anyone. The IRA must not only give up arms, but must be seen to do so."
The centrist Indian Express held (7/30): "Two recent developments may have hastened the decision of the Irish Republican Army (IRA) to formally declare an end to its strategy of violence against Britain for the cause of a united Ireland. The first was the recent murder of Robert McCartney on January 30. His killing--by elements within the IRA--curiously held up a mirror to the inherent violence within the organization.... The violence perpetrated by jihadi elements in the London underground earlier this month--and the universal outrage it caused--may possibly have been the second immediate reason for prompting this welcome change in the organization’s strategy and thinking. But, in a sense, the shift had already taken place.... The IRA’s decision to dump arms represents a turning point, not just for Ireland but a world in which enduring and incipient insurgencies continue to fuel terrorist violence. The IRA, by opting for the sanity of dialogue and the stability of the democratic process, demonstrates that there could be a different way of achieving political ends that have defied a solution for decades."
The centrist Times of India had this to say (7/30): "With the formal renunciation of arms by the Irish Republican Army (IRA), it is safe to say that Western Europe's longest running civil war is now over.... This establishes a very important principle: no matter what political differences might exist, violence is now an outmoded manner of settling them, while peace is its own guarantee. What also helped, no doubt, was the economic transformation of neighboring Ireland.... Does Northern Ireland hold lessons for Kashmir? One important difference is that Pakistan is not quite Ireland, which has historically been a democracy as well as uninterested in involving itself in Northern Ireland's sectarian troubles. But that should not obscure the similarities. People are ahead of politicians in both cases. After one-and-a-half decades of civil conflict Kashmiris are tired of violence and wish desperately to give peace a chance. Hurriyat ought to take a leaf out of the IRA's book--violence has become a liability for them, and politics is a better way of resolving differences."
CANADA: "Hope, Skepticism Greet IRA Gesture"
The liberal Toronto Star editorialized (Internet version, 7/29): "For decades, the Irish Republican Army has tried to portray itself on the international stage as an idealized band of true believers fighting on behalf of Catholics against British rule in Northern Ireland.... But the reality was that the IRA...had long ago become little more than a bunch of criminals whose reign of brutal terror against both Protestant and Catholic communities was highlighted by bank robberies, money-laundering and violence.... The IRA, along with Sinn Fein, its political wing...clearly realized that it could no longer achieve its goal through violence.... In January, the IRA lost much of its remaining credibility when its thugs stabbed to death Robert McCartney, a Sinn Fein supporter, over a minor barroom argument. They terrorized 70 witnesses into silence. The murder came shortly after the IRA was accused of a $60 million bank robbery. Those events prompted a massive backlash against the IRA among Catholics...[who] saw the IRA as the biggest barrier to peace. Skepticism is justifiable on the issue of whether the IRA will disarm. Along with Protestant paramilitary groups, it made a similar undertaking in 1998 as part of the Good Friday peace accord that guaranteed minority Catholic representation in a Protestant-led government. Also, the IRA made it clear yesterday it is not disbanding. It still has up to 1,000 'volunteers.'... Still, the gesture to disarm and opt for a political route to reunification is welcome. Now the IRA must act with speed to turn in its weapons and immediately cease all paramilitary and criminal activity. Such haste is necessary because all trust in the IRA is lacking. It will take time to rebuild. But for once, there is hope for peace in this land of 'the Troubles.'"
"How The IRA Reached This Point"
The leading, centrist Globe and Mail opined (7/29): "The Irish Republican Army's decision to renounce violence teaches an important lesson: terrorism can be beaten.... [A]t some point along the way, the IRA was forced to a sobering conclusion. Though armed struggle had gained the organization enormous international publicity, it was not advancing its cause. Far from driving the British from Ireland, violence had made them dig in their heels. Meanwhile, in Ireland--north and south, Protestant and Catholic--people grew more and more sick of the mayhem and bloodshed. Terrorism works, it is often said, which is why so many political movements have embraced it. But if confronted with intelligence and resolve, it can be overcome.... But if the subtlety and resolve of the British government was critical, the IRA's own behavior was key, too. Atrocities such as pub bombings helped turn people against the organization and destroy its self-made image as a disciplined group of noble nationalists. Over time, it became clear that many IRA men were simple thugs.... To a large degree, the IRA defeated itself. So, over time, will other terrorist groups, if democratic countries can only stand firm."
"Fresh Hope In Ireland"
The nationalist Ottawa Citizen contended (7/29): "Amid the despair of this summer's terrorist attacks, there is a reason for hope: the Irish Republican Army has made an unqualified, unprecedented declaration of peace.... The peace process has leaped forward. It may yet move backward again. But this declaration bears little resemblance to the ceasefires of the past, and that is reason for optimism. The declaration shows that the slow, frustrating and unsung work of diplomacy and negotiation can help prevent violence. But this strategy cannot be applied with the same success to the Islamist terrorism that now threatens Britain. Unlike the motley collection of extremists who adhere to al-Qaida's goal of annihilating the West, the IRA is a defined entity with unrivaled organizational power and influence. When the IRA calls for peace, its supporters are likely to honor that. New groups could, however, take up arms in Ireland, while parts of the IRA and other paramilitary units disintegrate into gangs of petty thugs, more interested in profit than politics. But this declaration should cause even the most jaded observer to rejoice and echo the reaction of the Irish Prime Minister Bertie Ahern: 'the war is over'."
ARGENTINA: "An Increasingly Cornered Group"
Graciela Iglesias wrote from London in daily-of-record La Nacion (7/29): "Saying that the IRA's historical decision to renounce violence... is related to the recent wave of attacks against this capital city would be a mistake, but saying the opposite would also be erroneous. As usually happens in delicate and complex issues like this one, the truth is mid-way between both extremes. In this case, it is not located in London but on the other side of the Atlantic. Yesterday's well-prepared announcement by IRA is a direct and positive corollary of the U.S.-led 'global war on terror' since the September 11 attacks. It is not by chance that the message...coincided with [Sinn Fein] Martin McGuinness' arrival in Washington.... The Irish Republican movement has always been supported by the U.S. Irish Diaspora.... Groups like the IRA no longer fit in the U.S. strategic map. The Irish Republicans' illegal activities are not aligned with George W. Bush's 'worldwide war against the evil,' in which the UK plays a vital role.... According to UK PM Tony Blair, the 'day of unprecedented magnitude' was the result of three months of intense negotiations.... Some said in London that Irish terrorists wanted to announce the end of their 'armed fight' some days ago, but that they feared the message could pass unnoticed amid so many suicide attacks and deadly shots. But this is a mistake. The IRA simply waited until London made several concessions, among them the release of Seamus Kelly, who was guilty for one its bloodiest attacks."
CHILE: "The Conclusion Of A Phase"
Raul Sohr opined in government-owned, editorially independent La Nacion (7/29): "The IRA ended more than 30 years of armed struggle.... In London there was enormous satisfaction over the IRA’s announcement, as it reflects the success of a strategy that in recent years had emphasized political negotiations. Despite attacks, the British government never cut its ties with Sinn Fein.... They were well aware of the communications channels between the political arm of the IRA and those who carried arms. They knew Sinn Fein was not merely a conduit to reach those in the underground, but also a means to influence them. Many demanded that Sinn Fein be declared illegal, but vision triumphed over the pressure and the demands were resisted. Thus ends a process that now buries weapons to fully enter politics. The latest election shows the IRA, through Sinn Fein, will harvest more victories with votes than with bombs."
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