Letters: Old hatreds, new woes in Ireland

Sir: IRA violence saves weak governments from a lack of political will or understanding of the mechanics of the situation. When there was a ceasefire for 18 months, the Government did not know what to do with it.

First, there should be a preliminary referendum on whether the British people want Northern Ireland to remain in the UK on the present terms. The result would give the Government a firm political base on which to act and also shatter Unionists' delusion that, apart from Tory ultras, the rest of the UK wants very much to do with them at all.

The prerequisite of formal parliamentary democracy, namely an inclusive, stable, civil community, does not exist there. Remember, whenever you hear Unionist spokesmen talk of "the people of Ulster", to translate this as "the Orange 60 per cent of Northern Ireland residents who constitute our followers". The need is to devise novel forms which address the realities of this situation, including joint Anglo-Irish sovereignty.


London SW19