Letter: Northern Ireland: a time for new concepts; Unionist fears; violence that can return

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Sir: With regard to Northern Ireland, the British government should permit itself a maturity of thinking that can well be simulated.

The lessons from South Africa are several. The first was a refusal to be derailed by violence and, consequently, a refusal to be held hostage by any violent splinter group. The second was to create an emotional momentum of accord ahead of specific details, because details can never satisfy everyone. The third was to create generous one-sided initiatives, instead of the more usual bargaining responses. The fourth was the presence of skilled politicians who could choreograph the forward foxtrot with the right combination of advance and retreat - but always forward.

All these aspects are equally applicable to Northern Ireland, to Cyprus, and to many other chronic stand-offs. From time to time, there may also be a need for new concepts to structure new perceptions.

Yours sincerely,


London, W1

2 September