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Can 'Cooperation' bring peace to Northern Ireland?

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Violence continues in Northern Ireland, offical and unofficial observers in both England and Ireland argue, at least in part because money, guns, and -- most important -- moral support continue to flow from Irish Americans in the United States.

Now a private Irish organization, Cooperation North, has launched a nonpolitical, nondenominational, and nongovernmental campaign to give Irish- Americans a better understanding of the situation in that troubled land.

In Chicago between stops in San Francisco, Los Angeles, Boston, New York, and Washington, Cooperation North chairman Brendan O'Regan told the Monitor: "We will have violence in Ireland until there is a change in viewpoint here in the United States."

Because Irish-Americans have prospered and outnumber the 4.5 million Northern and Southern Irish 5 to 1, says Dr. O'Regan, "Whatever is endorsed here tends to be perpetuated over there, even though 95 percent or more of the people of Ireland reject violence as a solution to our problem "

Two years after it was started in Dublin with funds provided by leading Northern and Sourthern banks and industries, Cooperation North has made steady progress. It set out first to document existing economic and social cooperation between North and South -- and then to find ways to increase this cooperation.

Surprising many of the groups he meets with the US, O'Regan points out that cooperation has continued throughtout the worst of the violence. Many trade unions, churches, sporting groups, banks, industries, and professional bodies operate on an all-Ireland basis. Cooperation North has helped increase this contact through "twinning" town, arranging exchange tours for a wide variety of groups, promoting lower air fares between North and South, and encouraging North-South trade.

These reconciliation efforts, says O'Regan, all build on " the concept that we should be good neighbors on our island." He believes that "the more reconciliation of differences we achieve outside the political arena, the easier it will become for the politicians to work together in the future.

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