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Ireland: Think Small, Think Big

In Northern Ireland, enemies of peaceful change have tried once more to assassinate progress. But the various factions of Protestant and Catholic negotiators didn't flinch.

Peace talks resumed Jan. 12 with London and Dublin providing plenty to chew on. Interlocking pieces of a settlement are at last on the bargaining table. They require each side to yield on basic goals it has fought for - presumably by a May deadline.

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The proposed new peace structure depends on linking smaller units of governance within the larger whole of a friendly Britain and Ireland.

British Prime Minister Tony Blair helped set the scene for links between regional units of the two island nations when he devolved some power to Scotland and Wales. That provides the basis for a proposed "council of the isles." The council would seat delegates from those two legislatures with those from a proposed Protestant-Catholic power-sharing assembly in Belfast, and the "parent" parliaments in London and Dublin.

Sinn Fein will have to swallow a Northern Ireland still linked to London, unless a majority decides otherwise in future. Protestant militants will have to swallow a new liaison body promoting closer relations between Belfast and Dublin. Both sides will then need to agree on contentious details: Who controls job training, budgets, education, etc.?

To make all this work, the friendly cooperation between leaders in London and Dublin needs to be institutionalized. Peace is worth the effort.

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