Leading Article: We must not give up now

Share
Related Topics
IN A FEW, terrible seconds the fragile peace of Northern Ireland was shattered yesterday when a car bomb exploded in Omagh, killing as many as 20 people and injuring hundreds more. It was a scene of carnage many had believed Northern Ireland would never witness again.

Despite the killings and beatings that have occurred in the Province since the Good Friday agreement - most horribly the murder of the three children in the Ballymoney arson attack last month - the people of Ireland, North and South, and of mainland Britain, have continued to hope that Ulster would finally escape the apparently inevitable cycle of violence that has darkened its soul and twisted its mind since the latest round of the Troubles began in 1969. That hope must not now be abandoned, whatever the so-called realists say in the wake of yesterday's demonic act of terrorism.

Hope in these circumstances will of course be dismissed by the doubters as wilful piety. For those who believe - and declare with certainty - that no peace can be brought to Northern Ireland, the Omagh bomb will provide a terrible vindication. There never was a solution to the Troubles, they will say, again. To talk to terrorists, to suppose that the men of violence can become peaceful politicians, is an act of folly - no matter that history is littered with the names of terrorists who became statesmen.

In fact, the optimists, those who refuse to yield to simple certainties of despair, have never believed that the peace process - ratified on Good Friday - would end the violence. They knew for sure that the killing would continue. The point was, however, that the process was the logical conclusion of a policy begun by Margaret Thatcher in 1985 with the Anglo- Irish Agreement. The agreement implicitly recognised the principle of limited cross-border power-sharing. It was followed by covert approaches to the IRA. The agreement and the peace process that followed it were endorsed by both main parties, and by the United States of America. They could not - and cannot - be stopped or reversed. They can, however, be trampled on and mocked by the men of violence.

It is too early to say who was behind yesterday's bomb, though the finger naturally points to those dissident and demented members of the IRA who refused to accept the political ambitions of Gerry Adams and the rest of the Republican movement. These men have threatened violence and undoubtedly have the means to deliver it. But they are, on any reckoning, a small group, far outnumbered by those who believe there must be another way. They ought, therefore, to be easier to contain than the Provisional IRA.

Furthermore, the Government has a mandate to contain the violence, ruthlessly if need be. Last May, 71 per cent of the people of Ulster voted for the Good Friday peace agreement. They voted for peace through power- sharing, and for compromise. Unionists, meanwhile, tacitly accepted that the days of the Protestant ascendancy were numbered. The majority of Irishmen want no part in the tribalism that has brought such misery over the years.

Now the people of Ulster must mourn and bury their dead, as they have done too often in the past - and, alas, will again. The killings will continue, but so will the peace process. The virtue of hope will ultimately triumph over the vice of despair, even in the mean and seemingly intractable streets of Northern Ireland. Great Britain will settle for nothing less.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Digital Account Manager - OTE £40,000

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This web-based lead generation ...

Tradewind Recruitment: Intervention Teacher Required To Start ASAP.

£125 - £150 per day + Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: A 'wonderful primary ...

Tradewind Recruitment: Maths Teacher

£90 - £140 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: Our client is an 11-16 mixed commun...

Recruitment Genius: PHP / Drupal / SaaS Developer

£32000 - £36000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A rapidly developing company in...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Benedict Cumberbatch attends a special screening of his latest film The Imitation Game  

Benedict Cumberbatch race row: What's the actual difference between 'coloured' and 'person of colour'?

Matthew Norman
Pressure is growing on Chris Grayling to abandon the Government bid to advise Saudi Arabia on running its prisons (Getty)  

What in sanity’s name is Chris Grayling doing in the job of Justice Secretary?

Matthew Norman
Greece elections: In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza

Greece elections

In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza, says Patrick Cockburn
Holocaust Memorial Day: Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears

Holocaust Memorial Day

Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears over Europe
Fortitude and the Arctic attraction: Our fascination with the last great wilderness

Magnetic north

The Arctic has always exerted a pull, from Greek myth to new thriller Fortitude. Gerard Gilbert considers what's behind our fascination with the last great wilderness
Homeless Veterans appeal: Homeless in Wales can find inspiration from Daniel’s story

Homeless Veterans appeal

Homeless in Wales can find inspiration from Daniel’s story
Front National family feud? Marine Le Pen and her relatives clash over French far-right party's response to Paris terror attacks

Front National family feud?

Marine Le Pen and her relatives clash over French far-right party's response to Paris terror attacks
Pot of gold: tasting the world’s most expensive tea

Pot of gold

Tasting the world’s most expensive tea
10 best wildlife-watching experiences: From hen harriers to porpoises

From hen harriers to porpoises: 10 best wildlife-watching experiences

While many of Britain's birds have flown south for the winter, it's still a great time to get outside for a spot of twitching
Nick Easter: 'I don’t want just to hold tackle bags, I want to be out there'

'I don’t want just to hold tackle bags, I want to be out there'

Nick Easter targeting World Cup place after England recall
DSK, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel

The inside track on France's trial of the year

Dominique Strauss-Kahn, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel:
As provocative now as they ever were

Sarah Kane season

Why her plays are as provocative now as when they were written
Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of a killing in Iraq 11 years ago

Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of another killing

Japanese mood was against what was seen as irresponsible trips to a vicious war zone
Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

The enemy within

People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

Autumn/winter menswear 2015

The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore