Letter: Ulster seizes the moral low ground

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The Independent Online
Sir: This Labour government has made its first mistake. It is not that the Orangemen marched so much as the manner of their marching. A principled decision, even one upholding the right to walk the Queen's highway without let or hindrance, would at least have laid claim to the respect of the nationalists. This surrender to the greater threat risks bringing the British government into contempt.

Ronnie Flanagan, the RUC Chief Constable, might have been wiser not to give the Loyalist Volunteer Force cause for celebration by citing their murderous threats as motivation for his decision, but the blame does not lie with an official doing his best to fulfil a limited brief. Responsibility lies with the Secretary of State, Marjorie Mowlam.

Northern Ireland is a dysfunctional society. The rule of law has to be fostered, not just upheld. That is what Mo Mowlam has failed to do. Her actions have not struck at the culture of violence. Angry nationalists will conclude that as in the past force is what counts in the province. Decisions on parades are apparently awarded to the side that can come up with the most credible threat of atrocity in an auction of violence. Doubt not that the IRA will be bidding.

This mistake must be put right for the peace process to survive but Mowlam is perhaps now no longer the person to do it.

NICK MARTIN-CLARK

London N8

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