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Letter: Positive aspects of an IRA victory

Sir: I feel inclined to agree with Conor Cruise O'Brien ('Drifting towards an IRA victory', 9 July) when he writes that Sir Patrick Mayhew, Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, was manifestly wrong to maintain that the IRA are ultimately bound to fail. On the contrary, their campaign has become increasingly effective over the years. I suspect that Dr O'Brien may also be right to assert that eventually the British will withdraw. He writes that 'with increasing casualties and no solution in sight', a future British government would agree to the unity of Ireland.

Why, however, does he see this so negatively? He appears to overlook the fact that the unity of Ireland is itself a solution, albeit one that does not currently have everyone's support. In the world of realpolitik, one never finds solutions to conflict that have universal support. I would suspect, however, that there is enough support for a united Ireland within Ireland itself, as well as this side of the Irish Sea (and most opinion polls in Britain favour a withdrawal from Ireland), to make Irish unity an option that is worthy of serious consideration.

Dr O'Brien fears that a Bosnia- type situation would follow a British withdrawal. With the example of India in mind, bloodshed might indeed be the outcome of premature withdrawal. Any transfer of power must be well planned and gradual (there may well be an interim period of joint sovereignty). Since the status quo is not bringing us any nearer peace, why close our minds to the principle of unity?

Yours sincerely,


London, W11