Letter: Seven stark realities to be faced in Northern Ireland

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The Independent Online
Sir: It has now become fashionable to talk of the pieces of the jigsaw coming together in relation to the troubles of Northern Ireland. Life and death here may be more complex, a kaleidoscope rather than a jigsaw, but those who wish to see the constituent pieces of any way forward might turn to the Opsahl Report.

Even the Independent, which has studiously ignored Initiative '92's Opsahl commission of inquiry, will surely cover Northern Ireland today on what is by some calculations the 25th anniversary of the 'troubles'.

This summer's Opsahl report, based on the involvement of 3,000 people in submissions and hundreds in oral hearings around the region, and backed by opinion polls thereafter, listed seven realities:

Northern Ireland is not like any other part of the UK;

the communities in Northern Ireland will not agree to independence;

the UK will not withdraw from Northern Ireland under threat of violence;

the Republic of Ireland will not renounce the aim of Irish unity;

Irish unity is not a realistic prospect in the foreseeable future;

majority rule is not viable since it is unacceptable to nationalists;

an administration that gives an executive role to anyone outside the UK is not viable since it is unacceptable to Unionists.

In the context of the Adams- Hume talks it might be noted that Torkel Opsahl himself, who sadly died last month, observed in his introduction to the report that

The concept of self-determination, which is the design behind so much death and destruction in the former Yugoslavia . . . is not a helpful one, particularly in a divided society like Northern Ireland.

None the less, the Opsahl Commission was keen that Sinn Fein should be brought 'in from the cold' although it accepted that a cessation of violence was a sine qua non before Sinn Fein could expect a place at any conference table.

The Adams-Hume talks could usefully take account of the Opsahl realities and, of course, acknowledge the pain and suffering on all sides over the past 25 years. In 1968, John Hume and others were marching for rights. In 1993, we may be at a historic moment if all sides could set aside further conflicting claims to rights and ask instead: what is right to do?



Initiative '92