IRA violence 'deepens divide'

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The Independent Online
MARK DURKAN, Social Democratic and Labour Party chairperson

VIOLENCE

'The effect of IRA violence is to deepen division and fear. All that people feel is the hurt of violence and all they hear is the din of it. It causes direct economic harm to everybody in the North . . .

'Violence galvanises the British presence. Every time you're about to get the British to look sensitively at the full political dimensions of the Northern Ireland problem, violence - not unusually IRA violence - means they revert simply to a security agenda. In the South, IRA violence is making people sick of the North, scared of it and ashamed of it. It makes them feel they must dissociate themselves from IRA violence, and so it has actually diminished the nationalist ideal and made people increasingly self-conscious and apologetic.

'The supreme irony of the IRA campaign is that it is mounted on this notion that it will create a British psychological disengagement from the North. But what it has actually achieved is a psychological disengagement by large elements of the South from the North.

'The SDLP has . . . succeeded in getting a clear realisation by the British government that it's not simply an internal Northern Ireland problem or even internal UK problem. We have made them realise that we're not to be treated simply as a free-standing internal minority and that people of the Irish nationalist tradition in Northern Ireland are part of the body politic of the island as a whole.'

BRITISH POLICY

'I have the firm impression that people in the British Establishment would quite happily want to be out of their involvement in Northern Ireland, if they could. It's the security requirement, as they see it, that keeps them here, and what they would see as the responsibility to respect the current wishes of the majority . . .

'The traditional arguments were that Britain was here pursuing several self-interests, principally economic and strategic. The strategic self-interest, history has passed that by . . . The more modern strategic interest has been overtaken by the end of the Cold War: that's all out the window.

'In terms of the economic interest, to suggest that Britain is in Northern Ireland for economic interests is quite bizarre at this stage . . . it's costing them a fortune.'

SCENARIO FOR WITHDRAWAL

'I can't see the IRA winning, I really can't. But if it did I can't see that it would bring any great peace. It would outrage those of us who have pursued change without resort to violence. It would also outrage the Unionist community, who would see themselves as the main victims.

'The British feel there would be more violence if they left in advance of securing agreement. My own hunch would be that withdrawal in a vacuum would lead to more violence. There would be a rush for territory in different parts of the North. Who would exercise authority over the security forces, and where would their loyalties lie? In those circumstances police and locally recruited soldiers would feel that all they could do was defend their own community.

'The only way to get a British withdrawal is in the context of agreement on new arrangements in Ireland. That means agreement that is wide enough to ensure that those new institutions are going to be sustainable without the need for British security or military back-up. It seems clear to me that, if there was agreement on some form of Irish unity, the British would honour and respect that, and do what they could to help deliver it, helping to contribute to stability and disentangling themselves from an involvement that they've got rather tired of and confused about.'

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