Impasse over North agreement


Madam, - I find John Waters's column of December 13th perplexing, as it effectively regards Ian Paisley as the "last man standing" at the end of the Northern débâcle. The contribution of Ian Paisley to the resurgence of the moribund IRA of the late 1960s, and to the disastrous 25 years that followed, should not be air-brushed.

Earlier in the 1960s he vehemently opposed Terence O'Neill's attempted reforms which, had they been given sufficient time to develop, might have satisfactorily redressed the appalling anti-Catholic nature of the unionist regime. He opposed the civil rights marches. He opposed Sunningdale. He opposed the Anglo-Irish Agreement. He opposed the Good Friday Agreement. He opposed anything that threatened unionist supremacy, and was quite happy to court loyalist paramilitaries, using the threat of violence and riots when required.

That his consistent denouncement of the IRA might be considered a tribute to his "character integrity" is neither here nor there.

In reality, the situation in which he now he finds himself, that of possible power-sharing with nationalists, is anathema to everything he ever espoused.

Given Paisley's consistently virulent opposition to Catholics getting a fair crack of the whip in any social sphere, long before the IRA was a major factor in the North, what he may be about to do is a volte-face. It is a case of an old bigot being mugged by reality.

Whether all of this could have happened without the "armed struggle" is moot. It is not fashionable to say that, but Paisley and his ilk stymied any attempts at reform by constitutional means. Does his track record over the years suggest that he would have come to the negotiating table easily?

IRA-bashing is de rigueur in the media right now, but no amount of woolly and selective analysis can obscure the bigotry and intransigence of Ian Paisley, which contributed so significantly to the start and duration of the Troubles. - Yours etc.,

MAIRTÍN Ó RIAIN Killoscully, Newport, Co Tipperary.

Madam, - Watching the Rev Ian Paisley on the Six O'Clock news brought home a very troubling fact to me: whether or not the killers of Garda McCabe are released depends not on the wishes of his widow, or the wishes of the Irish people, or the need to support and protect gardaí, and not even on the rulings of our judges.

No, the scary truth is that it depends entirely on who in the North has the greatest power over our Taoiseach.

Even more frightening, it appears that it is he himself who has put both himself and us in this perilous position. - Yours, etc.,

ANNE-MARIE CURTIN, Adrigole, Beara, Co Cork.

Madam, - If peace in the North were truly almost upon us, what earthly reason could there be for the IRA to continue? Why would it be necessary for it to be signing up to agreements about its members ceasing criminal activities? Common interpretation of the English language would suggest that if its war was over there would be no volunteers left, as there was nothing to volunteer for, nobody to command and nobody to obey.

It appears that the working presumption is that the IRA is to be allowed to continue as a going concern. Why does nobody appear to be bothered by this? - Yours, etc.,

STEPHEN RYAN, Trimleston Park, Blackrock, Co Dublin.