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Irish echoes

The search for peace in Northern Ireland is bringing transatlantic echoes of solidarity against backlash and violence. Earlier this month Britain's Prime Minister Thatcher went to Belfast and stood firmly for the joint reconciliation efforts by Britain and the Republic of Ireland: "They pose no threat to Northern Ireland. We shall not be deterred by those who seek to invent one. . . . Attempts at intimidation will fail." Yesterday a galaxy of Irish-American political leaders urged United States support of these British-Irish efforts and rejected "the machinations of all those who seek for their own advantage to subvert this constructive new approach."

"The terrorists, whether they call themselves 'Loyalists' or 'Republicans,' have nothing to offer but heartbreak and bloodshed," said Mrs. Thatcher. "They are the enemies of us all."

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"On this St. Patrick's Day," said the Irish- Americans, "we ask all Americans to join our cause, to reject the bomb and the bullet, the fear and the terrorism and the bigotry." Their fervent statement, printed in today's Monitor, adds the good news that the support of violence in Northern Ireland by some Americans has declined: "We have seen the decline not just in weapons or financial aid, but in the insidious support of those who create or credit the propaganda that can only increase the tension and worsen the violence."

This decline must continue. The statement announces an intention to form an organization of members of Congress fostering American support of peaceful settlement. It is to be called "Friends of Ireland," and in spirit it surely should not be limited to Capitol Hill.

When it comes to long-range solutions the tones of the transatlantic echoes are not quite the same. Mrs. Thatcher said she would persevere in seeking a way to give the people of Northern Ireland more responsibility for the conduct of their own affairs. But she stressed Northern Ireland's continued inclusion in the United Kingdom "unless its people and the Parliament at Westminster decide otherwise." The Irish-Americans, on the other hand, set Irish unity -- joining Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland -- as a necessary goal for lasting peace. But they added: "We agree that the goal can be reached only with the consent of a majority of the people of Northern Ireland, and with full safeguards for the rights of both sections of the community."

Here the voices on both sides of the water reach toward the heart of the matter: letting the people of Northern Ireland determine what they want -- and making su re they can do so without the false pressures of terror.

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