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One Step From Peace

PEACE in Northern Ireland? Are years of bad-faith, little-faith, and now good-faith bargaining about to pay off?

An astute formula on the table shows basically how to get to peace.

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The British government backs it.

The Irish government backs it.

Catholic Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams says it's possible to get there.

Protestant Ulster Unionist David Trimble says it's possible to get there.

An agreed deadline (April 9) looms.

There still are risks. Embittered militants on both sides want that deadline to pass unfulfilled so they can go on playing deadly games with bombs, bullets, and taunts. Many in the Protestant and Catholic communities fear, respectively, loss of power or a sellout of long-held goals.

But an end to Northern Ireland's grievous waste of adult lives and children's futures, an end to the depressing pall over a beautiful land, vastly outweighs those risks.

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Specific benefits also counter the presumed risks. Under some variant of the formula on the bargaining table, Northern Ireland would gain:

1. Government by a coalition of Protestant and Catholic parties.

2. A democratic legislature still linked to economically vigorous Britain, but with ...

3. New ties to Ireland's blooming economy and culture via a cross-border council that would coordinate Belfast's interests with Dublin's in areas such tourism and agriculture.

4. A local rule relationship to London parallel to that now to be enjoyed by Scotland and Wales.

5. Enlarged economic benefit from European Union free trade and outside investment once an end to violence is seen as lasting.

6. Long-term growth from increased commerce across the Irish border.

The opposing parties in the peace talks have given their chairman, former US Senator George Mitchell, authority to speed the pace and recommend compromise "paths" in the final days of bargaining. Often old foes need such outside nudging to move them toward what they know they ought to accept.

For the good of all the people of Northern Ireland, there should be no doubt about that decision. Accept, and make the plan work. Future generations will honor you for doing so.

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