As others see us: Balancing act

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The Independent Online
BRITISH Prime Minister John Major's father is reported to have been a trapeze artist. And the family talent for tricky balancing acts was very much in evidence on his Northern Ireland visit yesterday.

The gesture offered to Sinn Fein and the nationalist community - the opening of certain Border roads and the lifting of the British broadcasting ban on Gerry Adams & Co - won't provoke dancing on the Falls Road, or bonfires in South Armagh . . . To demand that Sinn Fein leaders clarify the terms of the ceasefire, while at the same time insisting that their words be spoken by actors in TV interviews, was as bizarre as it was politically embarrassing. If Sinn Fein is being asked for answers, then it makes sense to allow them to answer directly, and not through some crazy system involving political ventriloquism. . .

But his central mission was to reassure a fearful Unionist community . . . His promise that whatever agreement emerges from future talks will be put to a referendum in the North, should reassure even the most suspicious of loyalists that no secret deals can be done behind their backs.

Finding agreement will be the hard part. But what John Major has done is to remove even the semblance of justification for loyalist paramilitaries to continue their violence. They, like the rest of their community, have been told that they will have their say on the final package. They should now put away the guns and bombs - as the IRA have done - and allow the process which may produce that package to get under way.

Leader in the 'Irish Press'