British 'could end troubles'

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The Independent Online
MITCHEL McLAUGHLIN, northern chairperson of Sinn Fein

VIOLENCE

'Warrington didn't help. . . . no republican would argue that. The IRA have explained what they did or attempted to do in terms of clearing civilians away . . . There was confusion after that. We might never know exactly what happened.

'The IRA bomb that destroyed the Baltic Exchange, as well as having a major economic effect, also had a political effect. People, particularly from the business community, are saying that this is an intolerable situation.'

BRITISH POLICY

'There are signs within the British government itself, and certainly within the British establishment, that people are starting to ask questions - what's it about? Why are we still involved? That debate is going on, but my hard view is that the British government haven't changed their policy and aren't about to change, that we're in for another maybe five years of it. But I believe that the pressure is actually building up for change.

'I don't believe that republicans would sincerely argue now that the British have an active colonial policy. The old kind of colonial imperatives that were there in terms of Ireland as the back door, needed for their own security, and dominating the domestic market . . . those reasons have actually changed quite significantly.

'The advent of an open Europe has changed the economic reasons for Britain wanting to dominate Ireland.

'I think it's actually more inertia. They're not exercised about the issue. There's very little evidence that they agonise even over the failure of their policies . . . out of sight, out of mind.'

BRITISH WITHDRAWAL

'We're trying to break the logjam, and I don't believe the British government and the IRA are that far away from it. I think they can actually arrive at an understanding that would allow for a cessation of hostilities.

'For instance, if the British . . . concluded that they were going to end this conflict . . . it might not necessarily require from them a unilateral declaration which might be difficult to explain in the international arena.

'If there was a willingness there, if people were prepared to be imaginative and flexible, a way forward could be found. If there was a change of attitude on the British part then lines of communication could be set up.'

SCENARIO FOR WITHDRAWAL

'The threat of a loyalist backlash is a factor: the British are thinking that a bad situation could get worse.

'But we're arguing that in circumstances where you achieve a cessation of hostilities between republican and British forces, you're then left with one source of violence against a background of constitutional negotiation.

'So if the British government were to announce next week that they were going to get out of Ireland, and they set a time limit on it, then you have a basis for starting a process of reconciliation, starting constitutional negotiations and getting immediately as a reward an end of the IRA campaign.

'If the British and Dublin governments were operating on a joint programme to end partition, and the IRA campaign had ceased as a result, then I believe loyalist violence can be contained because it would be isolated.

'I'm not talking about the immediate knee-jerk which might be quite savage and dangerous. But when the dust settles and they're thinking about it in the long term they have to ask themselves, what is the point of this? Can they force the British government to change its mind and to re- engage in Ireland again, with a prospect of starting up the IRA campaign? I think in those circumstances loyalist violence . . . will attract very limited support . . . and will very quickly fizzle out.'

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