Memo From Mac



The Burlington Hawk-Eye
The Hawk Eye
Burlington, Iowa

It's A Paradox, But Only The People Are Apart 

Dublin, Ireland Northern Ireland will have no peace until the Nationalists Catholics and those who support them give up the cause of a united Ireland.

Out of that a united Ireland might come peaceably someday. It's a paradox, like the Biblical precept of saving one's life by losing it.

Of course, the Unionists Protestants and those who support them must give something too: civil, economic and political rights and decent treatment to the minority Catholics.

That's our conclusion after looking and listening in the North. An official of the Irish government here seemed shocked when we said it.

But the Anglo Irish Agreement points that way: Both Ireland and England pledge no change unless a majority in the North agrees. But it doesn't go far enough for peace. With a 65-35 edge you'd think Protestants would feel safe. But they don't trust the promise as long as the Irish Republic still claims the North in its constitution, and so many politicians still support the IRA's goal, even while condemning its means.

Catholics have a gripe, too. So long as they have guarantees of the status quo, what's to make Protestants change their behavior? A further flaw in the agreement is the pledge of change by majority vote. Who imagines Northern Ireland going peacefully into the Irish Republic on a 51-49 vote?

The Agreement's still a worthwhile start. But peace cannot come by political edict from above; only by reconciliation and understanding from below.

Politicians and paramilitaries scoffed at Nobel Peace laureate Mairead Corrigan McGuire when she said, "You can't impose solutions from London or Dublin. You have to build a consensus between Protestants and Catholics. We need as many platforms for dialogue as possible."

But Irish Prime Minister Garret Fitzgerald, an architect of the Anglo-Irish Agreement, agrees that "political unity must be preceded by a unity of hearts" requiring "immense patience" and "deep understanding."

That means ecumenism, integrated schools and sports; more "Peace People" and "Protestant and Catholic encounter" groups, more Corrymeelas, and integrated police. An end to British military occupation and a return to local government.

But most of all it needs escape from myth and nursing all the sores of history; an end to celebrating all those "glorious defeats." Peace requires a recognition that a united Ireland is not all that important except to dreamers and demagogues. In actual fact, the people of the north and south are strangers, with little trade or tourism.

All the Catholic excuses because they're only 35 percent of the population should hardly impress American Catholics who are only 22 percent. Protestant paranoia is equally unimpressive from those whose numbers and the British Army protect them. Whatever Britain's past crimes in Ireland the present is in the hands of those who live there now.

The killers will go on as long as they think they have support from Catholics demanding union with the Republic, and Protestants fearing it.

Church ambivalence chills hope. The Catholic Church fiercely condemns the IRA. But when IRA "soldier" Seamus McElwaine was killed trying to blow a bridge in County Monaghan in May, after the hooded IRA gun salute, he got a three-priest mass. The homilist dwelt at length on the powers of the Virgin Mary. Nary a mention that those die by the gun who live by it. Spiritual comfort to all the young gunmen.

The Presbyterian General Assembly outraged Paisley by courageously calling for negotiations within the A-I agreement. But then it reaffirmed its Confession of Faith that the Pope is "the anti-Christ and a man of sin," encouragement enough to the young hoodlums of the UVF to go out and shoot themselves another Catholic.

The folly extends to Americans who send money to the IRA, out of some romantic notion that there's glory in baby-killing.

As Garret Fitzgerald says, understanding is required, and immense patience.

We remembered Joe Hendron as we crossed the quiet border. "The land is already united." Only the people are apart.

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