Saturday, March 24, 2007

Midnight at Stormont

For those of you who follow affairs overseas, you might be aware that the next 48 hours are a critical time for the sake of peace in Northern Ireland. Since the subject of peace in that statelet has always been very dear to my heart, I am personally monitoring the proceedings with baited breath.

In 1998, I strongly supported the Good Friday Agreement. The treaty, designed to bring devolved government and major cross-community engagement to Northern Ireland, was the greatest step forward for peace in the province since the Anglo-Irish Treaty of 1921. Since that time, positions on both the Nationalist and Unionist sides were seen to have hardened when the IRA was accused of having operated a spy ring at Stormont. The hardline Democratic Unionist Party has refused for years to share power with Sinn Fein, and may still refuse to do so in spite of the fact that not only has the IRA declared its campaign of violence to be at an end, but has put its weapons of war beyond use.

Now the world waits to see if the Reverend Ian Paisley can deliver the Party he created to the table of government in Northern Ireland. I have long believed that Paisley's hate-filled and inflammatory rhetoric over the years has done more to bolster the IRA and destroy Unionism in Northern Ireland than anything the Unionist Stormont parliaments or the British Government ever could have done. Paisley has been known to go on tirades, declaring that if the Six Counties were ever unified with the rest of Ireland, it would lead to widespread aborticide and sodomy-despite the fact that performing an abortion is still against the law in the Irish Republic. He has also referred to the idea of Home Rule as "Rome Rule." He was once removed from a session of the European Parliament for attempting to shout down Pope John Paul II, shouting at the Holy Father that he was the Antichrist.

Paisley seems, however, to have crossed a personal Rubicon-he has apparently come to realize that there can be no peace unless he learns to work together with his neighbors. This led to Paisley agreeing to the terms of the St. Andrew's Agreement, which is the binding document under which a devolved Government will work in Northern Ireland if it comes into being on Monday. Under that agreement, Sinn Fein agrees to accept policing in Northern Ireland, and Paisley's DUP agree in turn to enter into government with the Nationalist party. Paisley is reportedly having a terrible time convincing his own people to abide by the agreement.

All of this is hardly to say that Sinn Fein have suddenly become saints themselves. The modern party has all but shed its Catholic roots and has become a front for neo-Marxism, in spite of its 1970 split from "Official" Sinn Fein over the official party becoming too aligned with Marxism. Gerry Adams even refuses to publicly declare himself a Catholic, saying instead that "I like the sense of there being a God, and I do take succour now from the collective comfort of being at a Mass or another religious event where you can be anonymous and individual – just a sense of community at prayer and of paying attention to that spiritual dimension which is in all of us; and I also take some succour in a private, solitary way from being able to reflect on those things." The great problem for Catholics and Nationalists in Northern Ireland, however, is that they really have two parties from which to choose, and both are of a leftist-bent: Sinn Fein and the SDLP.

Agreement is sorely needed in Northern Ireland, and if it cannot be achieved in some fashion this weekend, I fear there may be a resumption of the Troubles that have plagued the place for so long.



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