The shadow of death is now in retreat - not only from Ulster, but from the cities and towns of mainland Britain, which, too, bear the scars of tragic loss over the last 30 years of terrorist anarchy. The politicians, for once and none too soon, have done their bit. It now falls to the people of Northern Ireland to do their bit, strive to turn their backs on generations of sectarian hatred and set out to achieve the golden future they long for.
Trimble has shown courage and outstanding leadership. He has put his own career on the line. His promise to reconvene the Council in February to appraise the IRA decommissioning process was a political stroke; it simultaneously reassured his own waverers and put additional pressure on the nationalists to deliver on decommissioning IRA weapons from the moral high ground of having made the first jump.
The Sunday Times
After the First World War Churchill wrote his despairing lines about the imperviousness of Northern Ireland's local sectarian dispute to the great changes caused around the world by that global conflict: "As the deluge subsides and the waters fall, we see the dreary steeples of Fermanagh and Tyrone emerging once again. The integrity of their quarrel is one of the few institutions that have been left unaltered in the cataclysm which has swept the world." It would be premature, even 80 years and another world war later, to say the quarrel is over. But the chances of holding it in a civilised fashion have been enhanced by Mr Trimble's bravery.
The Sunday Telegraph
In truth, the Unionist jump was made with the help of an extremely large push from Peter Mandelson, the Northern Ireland secretary, and Tony Blair. Ulster Unionists have been repeatedly assured that, as democrats, they have nothing to fear from another risk for peace - even though this one demanded a U-turn in party policy. Mr Mandelson has repeatedly promised that if there is no IRA decommissioning, he will take steps to suspend the operation of the Northern Ireland Assembly executive. But Mr Blair also made emphatic promises to Unionists before the referendum on the Belfast agreement, including that "those who use or threaten violence" would be excluded from government. Those promises melted away. The burden of responsibility now rests with Mandelson. He must make sure that the threat of IRA violence is not permitted to loom over the decision making of the new assembly. When the Ulster Unionist Council meets in February, it should not be asked to jump again.
So what happens now? A genuine cross community government will be established next week. Then the waiting begins - will the IRA decommission its weapons? Mr Adams was anxious yesterday to remind us that he has given no promise of disarmament. But he has heavily implied that if David Trimble moves first to set up a government, he would reciprocate. An act of bad faith now would be a public relations disaster. Far better for Mr Adams to exploit the honeymoon period of the new government and make a decent gesture on arms - but hardliners in the IRA will do everything to stop him and they may succeed. If they do, then the Agreement will again enter crisis because the Ulster Unionists may be forced to withdraw. If that happens we are all back in the mess. Let us hope that the opportunity given by the new millennium will be seized to create a lasting peace in Ireland. (Paul Bew)Reuse content