Leading article: There is a tide in the affairs of Ulster

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The Independent Culture
THE TIDE of peace in Northern Ireland is still coming in. Each wave of hope recedes, but then the next wave comes in and reaches higher up the beach. There was deadlock at Hillsborough Castle last month, when Tony Blair and the Irish Prime Minister Bertie Ahern thought they had a deal but did not. Gloom, slide back into violence, pessimism, etc. Then something happened in Downing Street on Friday. Mr Blair and Mr Ahern will not say what, but "real progress" has been made and a deadline set for agreeing the terms for setting up Northern Ireland's devolved government. Smiles, sunlit uplands, optimism, etc.

Since last month, the pressure has shifted from Sinn Fein, who rejected the Hillsborough formula, which dressed up IRA disarmament as an act of "reconciliation". Now the pressure is back on the Unionists: David Trimble must persuade them to accept Gerry Adams as a minister. Both things have to happen: the IRA has to disarm and Mr Adams has to be given the responsibility of office. The deal is in the timing of the stages: it can and must be done. Mr Trimble must make sure the tide does not turn.