Balaclava to ballot-box

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The Independent Online

The last batch of paramilitaries has walked out of the Maze. It was a painful sight to watch the murderers of Greysteel and the Shankill emerge to applause. But it was necessary. If the paramilitaries are to be kept to their end of the bargain - ballot-box not balaclava - the Government needs to keep its word, too. True, decommissioning has been disgracefully absent. But within their skewed sense of honour and discipline, the groups have maintained their ceasefires.

The last batch of paramilitaries has walked out of the Maze. It was a painful sight to watch the murderers of Greysteel and the Shankill emerge to applause. But it was necessary. If the paramilitaries are to be kept to their end of the bargain - ballot-box not balaclava - the Government needs to keep its word, too. True, decommissioning has been disgracefully absent. But within their skewed sense of honour and discipline, the groups have maintained their ceasefires.

Of greater concern was the discovery in Croatia of arms destined for anti-Agreement republicans. There are worrying reports that some loyalists, too, are getting restless. Nothing would be more destructive to the peace process than an injection of experience into the factions that wish to bring it down. So, stomach-churning as it may be, the Government must ensure that former terrorists are integrated back into civilian life quickly. But equally, ex-terrorists should be in no doubt that a return to violence will not be tolerated - and that the H-blocks are still there, if needed.

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