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

Associate Recrutiment Consultant

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped OTE: SThree: SThree Group have been well ...

Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £23000 per annum + OTE: SThree: Real Staffing Group is seeking Traine...

Year 6 Teacher (interventions)

£120 - £140 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: We have an exciting opportunity...

PMLD Teacher

Competitive: Randstad Education Manchester: SEN Teacher urgently required for ...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Letter from the Political Editor: Cameron's unexpected tax pledges give the Tories home advantage

Andrew Grice
President Barack Obama walks with U.S. Secret Service agents to Air Force One at Los Angeles International Airport in Los Angeles, Calif., May 8, 2014.  

Obama's Secret Service has become sloppy with its delusions of Hollywood grandeur

David Usborne
Italian couples fake UK divorce scam on an ‘industrial scale’

Welcome to Maidenhead, the divorce capital of... Italy

A look at the the legal tourists who exploited our liberal dissolution rules
Time to stop running: At the start of Yom Kippur and with anti-Semitism flourishing, one Jew can no longer ignore his identity

Time to stop running

At the start of Yom Kippur and with anti-Semitism flourishing, one Jew can no longer ignore his identity
Tom and Jerry cartoons now carry a 'racial prejudice' warning on Amazon

Tom and Jerry cartoons now carry a 'racial prejudice' warning on Amazon

The vintage series has often been criticised for racial stereotyping
An app for the amorous: Could Good2Go end disputes about sexual consent - without being a passion-killer?

An app for the amorous

Could Good2Go end disputes about sexual consent - without being a passion-killer?
Llansanffraid is now Llansantffraid. Welsh town changes its name, but can you spot the difference?

Llansanffraid is now Llansantffraid

Welsh town changes its name, but can you spot the difference?
Charlotte Riley: At the peak of her powers

Charlotte Riley: At the peak of her powers

After a few early missteps with Chekhov, her acting career has taken her to Hollywood. Next up is a role in the BBC’s gangster drama ‘Peaky Blinders’
She's having a laugh: Britain's female comedians have never had it so good

She's having a laugh

Britain's female comedians have never had it so good, says stand-up Natalie Haynes
Sistine Chapel to ‘sing’ with new LED lights designed to bring Michelangelo’s masterpiece out of the shadows

Let there be light

Sistine Chapel to ‘sing’ with new LEDs designed to bring Michelangelo’s masterpiece out of the shadows
Great British Bake Off, semi-final, review: Richard remains the baker to beat

Tensions rise in Bake Off's pastry week

Richard remains the baker to beat as Chetna begins to flake
Paris Fashion Week, spring/summer 2015: Time travel fashion at Louis Vuitton in Paris

A look to the future

It's time travel fashion at Louis Vuitton in Paris
The 10 best bedspreads

The 10 best bedspreads

Before you up the tog count on your duvet, add an extra layer and a room-changing piece to your bed this autumn
Arsenal vs Galatasaray: Five things we learnt from the Emirates

Arsenal vs Galatasaray

Five things we learnt from the Gunners' Champions League victory at the Emirates
Stuart Lancaster’s long-term deal makes sense – a rarity for a decision taken by the RFU

Lancaster’s long-term deal makes sense – a rarity for a decision taken by the RFU

This deal gives England a head-start to prepare for 2019 World Cup, says Chris Hewett
Ebola outbreak: The children orphaned by the virus – then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection

The children orphaned by Ebola...

... then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection
Pride: Are censors pandering to homophobia?

Are censors pandering to homophobia?

US film censors have ruled 'Pride' unfit for under-16s, though it contains no sex or violence