Letter: Threat of IRA is the strongest green card

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Sir: In his article of 1 September Andrew Marr proposed that the real winner in Northern Ireland is 'modern liberal democracy'. This is questionable. Sinn Fein's possession of its own militia, the IRA, has amplified its true electoral influence by many times. Would Mr Adams have the same political weight if he did not have the IRA in the background, with its guns and Semtex?

The ambiguous note in the IRA statement may be Mr Hume's and Mr Reynolds's strongest card in the political contest. The threat that the IRA would start again, if Britain does not quickly make enough concessions, will allow Mr Hume and Mr Reynolds to exert pressure on British ministers throughout the continued negotiations. Sinn Fein's demands have not moderated since the publicity 'disaster' of the Letterkenny conference.

Mr Reynolds, a 'constitutional nationalist', is bound as Taoiseach by the Irish Constitution of 1937, that has been - until now - the crowning achievement of 'the politics of flag, soil and religion' in Ireland.

Yours faithfully,