Lawyer Rosemary Nelson was killed last week by a car bomb planted by Protestant loyalist paramilitaries who reject the peace process. Here is how some press commentators responded.

WHAT IMPACT will the murder of Mrs Nelson have on the peace process? Further rounds of tit-for-tat killings would certainly make progress much harder. But it may be too glib to say, as some have, that decommissioning will be impossible in the aftermath of her death ... Whatever decision the IRA has made on decommissioning may be entirely unaffected by a bomb designed not only to kill an outspoken woman, but also to put another obstacle on an already blocked path.


THOSE WHO have watched governments mishandle Northern Ireland for years teeter between rage and despair. Perhaps, as Eliot said, humankind cannot bear very much reality. But we are entitled to ask, after 30 years, how much longer this unreality will continue. So much hot air, so many conferences, so many corpses, and for what? More photo opportunities ... The way to handle such violence is not by freezing local politics, which has been British policy for 30 disastrous years. Nor is the answer to glamorise the men of violence and offer them a de facto veto on political reform: the trap into which Tony Blair is in danger of falling. They should be marginalised as criminals and not let out of jail. Leadership and responsibility should be built on revived local democracy, not the esteem of the panjandrums of Stormont. This great conflict, after all, is about nothing but local democracy ... British policy is on the brink of another humiliation. The American president has been hauled in to "sponsor" a dud plan to enfranchise two million Britons, and an IRA leader has gone to the White House and defied him. If Gerry Adams were an African or an Arab or even a Serb, Tomahawks would by now be thudding into his "hideouts" in Armagh and West Belfast. But Mr Adams is white, and kith and kin.

Simon Jenkins, Times

THE RAPID enlisting by the Royal Ulster Constabulary of Kent's chief constable and the FBI to help track down Rosemary Nelson's killers has underlined the RUC's legitimacy deficit ... Without meaningful police reform no one should expect the completion, let alone the beginning, of decommissioning by the IRA, or the full flourishing of the imaginative institutions agreed last Good Friday. Perhaps most controversially, it is important to counsel that continuing violence by paramilitaries should not be used as an excuse to halt much-needed police reform.

Brendan O'Leary, Guardian

SINN FEIN/IRA and the loyalists hate each other, but they have an overriding mutual interest in sticking, quite literally, to their guns. They have other common goals too - demarcating "turf" for racketeering and drug- dealing, eliminating democratic parties (such as the SDLP) at the polls, corrupting the prison service, and, above all, dismantling the RUC ... A tragic truth about Mrs Nelson's murder is that it helps show that Northern Ireland is getting worse, not better - despite the Stormont Agreement, which has produced some good consequences (such as the Ulster Unionist and SDLP co-operation), and the partial peace. Omagh has not turned out to be the province's last atrocity by bomb. Republicans and loyalists are replenishing their arsenals - and it looks, now, as though loyalists have widespread bombing capability. Democratic governments have hurried such men into constitutional politics, and loosed them en masse from prison for this purpose. They must take a share of the blame for yesterday's atrocity.

Leading article

Daily Telegraph

FROM GERRY Adams comes the acknowledgement that he is utterly powerless to order the IRA to start decommissioning its weapons. Yet it was precisely because Adams was believed to have influence with terrorist butchers and torturers that the Government has consistently appeased Sinn Fein/IRA. And for what? There is no peace in Ulster. The sectarian gangs are as vicious and murderous as ever. They have no interest in disarming. With little more than a fortnight to go before the next Good Friday deadline for further progress, the outlook is bleak.

Leading article, Daily Mail