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A reprieve for Pawar
Goa to Gummidipoondi
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A manhunt ends
Escobar's end
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Rwanda's death camps

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Outlook Money
Frontline

The Frontline features

Ulster truce

By V. Venkatesan

WHEN Irish Prime Minister Albert Reynolds, with his British counterpart John Major, issued a joint declaration on the future of Northern Ireland on December 15, 1993, he spoke somewhat optimistically of "peace by Christmas".

The festive season, however, did not see Reynold's pacifist prediction come true. The glad tidings he had hoped for came months later, though. On August 31, 1994, the Catholic-backed Irish Republican Army (IRA) declared a "complete cessation" of the "military operations" it had been waging for 25 years to get British troops out of Protestant-majority Ulster province and unify Ireland by force.

The announcement capped a long and mostly secret process of negotiations between Catholic leaders, the British and Irish Governments and between Britain and the IRA. An IRA statement said the group recognised "the potential of the current situation" and wished to "advance the democratic peace process".

Reaction to the news was predictably mixed. Protestant "Unionists", who want Northern Ireland to remain a part of Great Britain, were sceptical of the IRA's sudden commitment to the democratic process and wary of secret deals. Major said he was "greatly encouraged" by the IRA's statement but wondered if the ceasefire would be permanent. Reynolds said he believed it was.

Gerry Adams, president of Sinn Fein, the political arm of the IRA, called it "a historic day" and urged Major and the Unionist leaders to "seize the moment".

Later, addressing supporters at his party's Belfast headquarters, he said Britain should now withdraw troops from Catholic areas. But no such concession may be made immediately. Earlier IRA ceasefires did not last long.

It is with bated breath that Britons and the Irish await confirmation of the IRA's commitment to peace and an end to 25 years of violence which has claimed over 3,000 lives. n

(Published in Frontline, September 23, 1994).

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