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Toward peace in Northern Ireland

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The IRA bombing at Brighton, England, was senseless carnage. Among its victims were two good friends of New England - the chief whip, the Right Honorable John Wakeham, MP, (seriously injured) and his wife (killed). Only days before they had and been guests in our house in Boston, Mass.

Northern Ireland is not a colonial problem resolvable simply by British withdrawal. It is a disservice to all peoples Ireland for public figures in the United States to encourage the belief that it is. The Irish government and the British government consider that such a withdrawal could lead to a civil war in Northern Ireland, which would seriously destabilize the neighboring Irish Republic. This view is shared by most thinking people in the US and elsewhere.

The problem in Northern Ireland is one of a division of loyalties between the million or so Unionists who wish to remain British and the half million or so Nationalists, many of whom aspire to a united Ireland, not one between Britain and Ireland. The Irish government shares this view of the nature of the problem.

The New Ireland Forum Report was a significant step forward in crystallizing the thinking of those in the Republic of Ireland and among the minority in Northern Ireland who favor a united Ireland. Perhaps for the first time, these groups extended to the million or so Unionists in the North the hand of friendship and cooperation rather than the prospect of annexation/absorption. I was much heartened to see in the report the recognition of the ''British identity'' of the Unionist community in Northern Ireland. I welcome its unqualified opposition to violence and to those who support violence. And I note with respect its acceptance of the principle of consent to any change in Northern Ireland's constitutional position as part of the United Kingdom.

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