Spain's peace inspired by the Irish

SPANIARDS, and Basques, reacted with joy yesterday to the declaration by the separatist group Eta of a permanent truce after 30 years of bloodshed.

While the conservative government in Madrid played down the radical nationalists' gesture, Basques themselves were encouraged and in some cases elated, though they stressed this was just the beginning. The Interior Minister, Jaime Mayor Oreja, recognised that most people's reaction was "happiness and relief" but added that Eta's bloody record "proves that scepticism is necessary".

Among Basques who have sought a peaceful solution for years, many feel the ceasefire marks the beginning of a long process that could end the conflict for good, with the bonus that the gunmen could participate with their honour intact.

The spirit and detail of the Irish peace process have been crucial. Eta's political allies have sought and received guidance in opening up their own peace process from Sinn Fein. Martin McGuinness, for one, has advised the pro-Eta Herri Batasuna party, and visited the region in 1995. Other Sinn Fein leaders including Gerry Adams have also been there.

Joseba Pemach, regional spokesman for the Herri Batasuna (HB) in the Basque city of San Sebastian, said as much in an interview with The Independent last autumn when he said that his organisation had launched a discussion forum on Ireland and had invited other Basque parties to participate.

"If Madrid were to adopt something like a Downing Street declaration, we would study it with interest," he said.

For the first time HB was opening out to other forces, instead of remaining sealed inside its own rhetorical bubble, endlessly demanding that prisoners be brought nearer home, and haranguing even potential sympathisers about the non-negotiability of an independent Basque homeland.

One of the most positive responses came from a low-key non-party mediating group called Elkarri, which had for years sought to persuade all political forces of the need for a neogitated end to the conflict.

The softening of HB's approach followed one of Eta's worst recent attacks - the kidnapping and murder in July last year of the young Basque councillor Miguel Angel Blanco, which brought millions of Spaniards on to the street in protest. HB realised that it was alienating the very people it sought to win.

But the new line had quietly taken shape before July, during an HB visit to Northern Ireland. "This was decisive in changing their attitude," an Elkarri spokesman said yesterday. "Because until that moment, HB despite its good relations with Sinn Fein had been sceptical about the IRA ceasefire and said the Irish and the Basque processes were not comparable. But on that visit, and after discussions with Sinn Fein, HB decided to abandon the hard line." It sent delegations and study groups to Ireland and deliberately copied Sinn Fein's rapprochement with John Hume's SDLP by seeking alliances with the centre-right Basque Nationalist Party and other democratic Basque forces.

The process even survived the imprisonment of the entire HB leadership in December for collaborating with gunmen. While still supporting Eta ("but not its violent methods") HB began to carve out a political independence it had never had before and sought to supplant Eta as leader of the national independence movement.

Eta has been seriously weakend recently by French and Spanish police action, although even the Interior Ministry admits its killing power remains intact. Meanwhile, the political climate has rarely been more disposed to welcome Eta's offer, after an Irish inspired agreement last weekend among most Basque forces to launch a dialogue even without a ceasefire.

Sport
Alexis Sanchez has completed a £35m move to Arsenal, the club have confirmed
sportGunners complete £35m signing of Barcelona forward
Voices
Poor teachers should be fearful of not getting pay rises or losing their job if they fail to perform, Steve Fairclough, headteacher of Abbotsholme School, suggested
voicesChris Sloggett explains why it has become an impossible career path
Sport
world cup 2014
Sport
Ray Whelan was arrested earlier this week
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Arts and Entertainment
In a minor key: Keira Knightley in the lightweight 'Begin Again'
film
Arts and Entertainment
Celebrated children’s author Allan Ahlberg, best known for Each Peach Pear Plum
books
News
peopleIndian actress known as the 'Grand Old Lady of Bollywood' was 102
News
Wayne’s estate faces a claim for alleged copyright breaches
newsJohn Wayne's heirs duke it out with university over use of the late film star's nickname
Life and Style
It beggars belief: the homeless and hungry are weary, tortured, ghosts of people – with bodies contorted by imperceptible pain
lifeRough sleepers exist in every city. Hear the stories of those whose luck has run out
News
Mick Jagger performing at Glastonbury
people
Life and Style
fashionJ Crew introduces triple zero size to meet the Asia market demand
Sport
Santi Cazorla, Mikel Arteta and Mathieu Flamini of Arsenal launch the new Puma Arsenal kits at the Puma Store on Carnaby Street
sportMassive deal worth £150m over the next five years
Arts and Entertainment
Welsh opera singer Katherine Jenkins
musicHolyrood MPs 'staggered' at lack of Scottish artists performing
Life and Style
beautyBelgian fan lands L'Oreal campaign after being spotted at World Cup
Arts and Entertainment
Currently there is nothing to prevent all-male or all-female couples from competing against mixed sex partners at any of the country’s ballroom dancing events
Potential ban on same-sex partners in ballroom dancing competitions amounts to 'illegal discrimination'
News
business
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Business Analyst Consultant (Financial Services)

£60000 - £75000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Business Analyst Consultant (Fina...

Systems Administrator - Linux / Unix / Windows / TCP/IP / SAN

£60000 per annum: Harrington Starr: A leading provider in investment managemen...

AVS, JVS Openlink Endur Developer

£600 - £700 per day: Harrington Starr: AVS, JVS Openlink Endur Developer JVS, ...

E-Commerce Developer

£45000 - £60000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: Exciting opp...

Day In a Page

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting
Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

In the final part of our series, Chris Green arrives in Glasgow - a host city struggling to keep the politics out of its celebration of sport
Out in the cold: A writer spends a night on the streets and hears the stories of the homeless

A writer spends a night on the streets

Rough sleepers - the homeless, the destitute and the drunk - exist in every city. Will Nicoll meets those whose luck has run out
Striking new stations, high-speed links and (whisper it) better services - the UK's railways are entering a new golden age

UK's railways are entering a new golden age

New stations are opening across the country and our railways appear to be entering an era not seen in Britain since the early 1950s
Conchita Wurst becomes a 'bride' on the Paris catwalk - and proves there is life after Eurovision

Conchita becomes a 'bride' on Paris catwalk

Alexander Fury salutes the Eurovision Song Contest winner's latest triumph
Pétanque World Championship in Marseilles hit by

Pétanque 'world cup' hit by death threats

This year's most acrimonious sporting event took place in France, not Brazil. How did pétanque get so passionate?
Whelks are healthy, versatile and sustainable - so why did we stop eating them in the UK?

Why did we stop eating whelks?

Whelks were the Victorian equivalent of the donor kebab and our stocks are abundant. So why do we now export them all to the Far East?
10 best women's sunglasses

In the shade: 10 best women's sunglasses

From luxury bespoke eyewear to fun festival sunnies, we round up the shades to be seen in this summer
Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014: Lionel Messi? Javier Mascherano is key for Argentina...

World Cup final: Messi? Mascherano is key for Argentina...

No 10 is always centre of attention but Barça team-mate is just as crucial to finalists’ hopes
Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer knows she needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

18-year-old says this month’s Commonwealth Games are a key staging post in her career before time slips away
The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

The German people demand an end to the fighting
New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
Can scientists save the world's sea life from

Can scientists save our sea life?

By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

Richard III review

Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice