Slaughter won't stop until they've won: Bleating about peace will only prolong Northern Ireland's agony, warns Ruth Dudley Edwards

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ON THE card from Dublin showing a dove squatting on the legend 'Peace on St Patrick's Day', my friend wrote: 'How sensible to limit expectations to one day in the year.'

My friend is a realist. She knows that what Sinn Fein/IRA want is power, not peace. It is a message that too many people in Ireland and Britain seem incapable of grasping. Yet Provo apologists make it clear again and again.

Take Danny Morrison, originator of the slogan about the Armalite and the ballot box. All observers of the present wishful thinking about peace processes would do well to take note of the following paragraph from his novel, West Belfast. The hero, John, successively a trade union official and IRA gunman, is - clearly with the approval of his creator - of an unbending disposition. At some stage someone suggests a measure of compromise. ' 'Ease the situation]' bellowed John down the phone. 'We want it fuckin' resolved in our favour]' ' And that - whatever the designer language of the Adams family - is what they mean.

Before someone protests that West Belfast appeared in 1989 and the Provos have changed, consider the influential Mr Morrison's comments last month from prison. If the Provos did not get what they wanted, he explained, 'the conflict' would continue until a change was brought about in British public opinion 'through IRA pressure on business people in London'; this he helpfully clarified as 'bombs'. Contrast the slippery words of Mr Adams.

Eoghan Harris, an Irish journalist, media consultant and long-time expert on Sinn Fein/IRA, some years ago summarised Provospeak: the hypothetical situation was a mortar aimed at a barracks accidentally killing scores of young children.

'Look, we're really sorry/never meant to kill the kids/meant to kill the RUC/Why? - Because it's a war/in a war bad things happen/ we're sorry/look at Dresden/the Paras set out to kill the kids on Bloody Sunday/we really are very sorry/no peace until Brits are out/we're sorry/yes, it will happen again/as long as the North is under British rule/sorry.'

Lately they have been polishing up their patter to apply to atrocities in Britain. Wait for this when the mortars go off on their next spectacular.

'Not our fault/trying to move on the peace process/didn't mean to kill the innocent/sorry /just and lasting peace/police cynically ignored our warning/have to move the peace process forward/sorry/Sinn Fein commitment to peace process/all we want is clarification/ sorry/British government's fault for being negative.'

'What do they want?' ask well-meaning hand-wringers in Britain. What can the British government give them that will make them lay down their arms? I heard a prize suggestion the other day on LBC, where Shane Patrick O'Doherty (a reformed terrorist popular in radical-chic circles) was asked what gesture could turn the IRA. A corporate act of penitence by the British government for the wrongs done to Ireland in the past was his suggestion. That would certainly have the IRA Army Council rolling in the aisles. Next they could request that the British and Irish people put their corporate neck at a more convenient angle for the jackboot.

What these people really want is to run the whole island of Ireland their way. What the other lot want is to prevent them. 'Paramilitaries do not debate about peace, but power,' said Fr Denis Faul last week. Fr Faul, a man whose nationalist credentials are no more in doubt than his courage, said: 'Peace for them is a deceptive stalking bird, a word to blackmail governments and citizens into concessions of power by the use of threats.'

Fr Faul, a pivotal force in bringing the IRA hunger strikes to an end, knows the terrorists through and through. 'The people,' he says, 'must have the courage to give them no

support or succour or comfort; give them nothing.'

The IRA will not stop killing and give up their arms until they have won. Code words such as 'national self-determination', 'persuasion' and 'no veto' mean that Britain must agree to coerce the Unionists into a united Ireland in the face of the opposition of 95 per cent of the people of Ireland. Killing will go on in Britain and Ireland until Sinn Fein/IRA have achieved this or been put out of business.

What has to be understood is that they are without compassion in their quest for victory. The writer Sean O'Faolain looked back at his own state of mind during the Irish civil war: 'I firmly believed in the dogma that had by now become the last redoubt of the minority's resistance to the majority: that the people have no right to do wrong. Like all idealists, I was fast becoming heartless, humourless and pitiless.' The Provos reached that point long ago; they are sorry when a child is killed because it is bad PR.

It is to people such as Fr Faul and the spokesmen for Fait (Families Against Intimidation and Terror) that we should be listening. Their prescription is uncomfortable, but it is the only one that can work. Bleating about peace merely prolongs the agony and leads to more suffering in the end. What is required is the grim determination to defeat evil, however long the haul.

There should be no appeasement, no talks, no communications - private or public. The governments must accept that negotiation with the terrorists in their two islands is wrong as well as fruitless, that they must co-operate to root them out and that they should draw on the practical experience of European partners such as Italy and Spain.

'God made the Catholics; the Armalite made them equal,' runs a piece of Provo graffiti carved into the wood of a snug in the beautiful Crown bar in Belfast. At present the Provos believe the mortar will give them power and the loyalist terrorists believe only they can stop this happening. It is up to the two governments to prove the killers wrong.

(Photograph omitted)