No peace without Adams

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The Independent Online

Time was when a great many Irish-Americans regarded the IRA as stout-hearted freedom fighters locked in admirable struggle against British colonialism. Some of them still do but, as the events of last week in Washington showed, the tide is turning.

Time was when a great many Irish-Americans regarded the IRA as stout-hearted freedom fighters locked in admirable struggle against British colonialism. Some of them still do but, as the events of last week in Washington showed, the tide is turning.

This can be seen in official Washington's recognition that this is a multi-faceted problem that requires painstaking study and management. Presidential commitment may be slight, but the State Department has put impressive people on the case, which has helped to produce the nuanced response from the US administration.

The McCartney sisters were welcomed and fêted, and the US view, which is very much in line with thinking in London and Dublin, is that Sinn Fein needs to be taught a tough lesson. It is now more than a decade since the first IRA ceasefire, and that is more than enough time to bring about a managed, controlled end to its shady activities.

But the trigovernmental line is that Sinn Fein should not be treated as outcasts and, assuming the illegality issue can be dealt with, should be invited back to the table. Gerry Adams is no Yasser Arafat. He remains central to a solution.

Months of scratching round have produced no feasible alternative format: Sinn Fein takes around a quarter of votes cast in Northern Ireland, and its more conventional nationalist rivals are in disarray.

It is to be hoped that, along with achieving justice for their brother, the McCartneys' campaign will render a wider democratic service: of convincing republicans that the IRA should now be consigned to the past.

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