LETTER: Peace must be maintained in Northern Ireland

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From Ms F. A. Arbuthnot

Sir: When I heard the bomb detonate near Canary Wharf - about three miles away as the crow flies - I was unsurprised. For at least six months, listening to the intransigent utterings of the Prime Minister, Sir Patrick Mayhew, Michael Ancram and others involved in the misnamed "peace process", has been to witness a certain, self-fulfilling prophecy.

For 17 months there has been virtual peace in Northern Ireland. Two generations who had never experienced safety and security had their first tranquil Christmases. Incredibly, this was not good enough for the British government. Goal posts were moved, demand followed demand. Anyone with a minimal grasp of conflict resolve knows that the aim is to grab the moment, start from the now and build, bit by tentative bit. Only thus, slowly, carefully, are entrenched positions eroded and successful outcomes achieved.

Sadly, it seems that the British concern has been to save face and parliamentary seats rather than lives. A minimal majority demands, it seems, even the most hard-line Unionist support.

Curiously, during these 17 months, the Government has endorsed talks with others who were formerly considered terrorists and even with war crime suspects in the former Yugoslavia and in Palestine.

In Northern Ireland, peace is clearly too precious and precarious to be left to politicians, to arrogance and patronisation. Alternatives must be sought, something must be done, before this "tide in the affairs" of the men, women and children of Northern Ireland is not "taken at the flood" but again drowns us all in a torrent of hopeless violence.

Yours faithfully,

Felicity Arbuthnot

London, E9

11 February

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