Ireland needs to reunite, end IRA’s terrorist actions

It’s incredible that violence and bloodshed has occurred for more than 400 years in an area the size of Connecticut that has a current population just slightly larger than the city of Philadelphia, but lasting peace may finally be in sight.Monday marked the first face-to-face meeting between leaders of Northern Ireland’s two dominant rival parties, Sinn Fein and the Democratic Unionist Party, according to a recent New York Times article.

Even more amazingly, Gerry Adams of Sinn Fein and the Rev. Ian Paisley of the D.U.P. agreed to work together to create a joint provincial government by May 8.

For those who aren’t up on their Irish history, Northern Ireland has been embroiled in conflict since the settlement of Protestants from Scotland and England in the 17th century. Ireland, as a predominantly Catholic nation, wanted independence from English rule, but Northern Irish Protestants considered themselves loyal English citizens. This Catholic-Protestant conflict, while still a hot topic, has taken a back seat to the nationalist-unionist conflict, which was exaggerated by the Irish War of Independence and the Irish Civil War at the beginning of the 20th century and still goes on today.

The most extreme nationalists, the Irish Republican Army, are notorious for resorting to acts of terrorism to pressure the counties of Northern Ireland to join the Republic of Ireland and create a single Irish nation.

It was because of a 2002 conflict where a member of Sinn Fein was accused of spying for the IRA that Northern Ireland lost the right enjoyed by the other UK provinces, Wales and Scotland, to a provincial government. In 2005, the IRA declared an end to the terror, most likely because of a lack of funding and support from U.S. citizens who had traditionally been a main source of income for the IRA but whose attitudes toward terrorism changed in a post-9/11 world.

The 2005 disarmament of the IRA seems to have paved the way for Monday’s agreement.

According to the New York Times article, U.K. Prime Minister Tony Blair said, “This won’t stop Republicans being any less Republican or nationalist or making unionists less fiercely unionist. But what it does mean is that people will come together, respecting each other’s point of view, and share power, make sure politics is only expressed by peaceful and democratic means.”

For some Americans, Ireland is a place of leprechauns and Guinness, of shamrocks and St. Patrick’s Day. When I visited the Republic of Ireland during my fall semester in London, my tour guide said many visiting Americans don’t even know that the Republic of Ireland is an independent country and that Northern Ireland is a province of the U.K., yet there are thousands of us who can trace back to some form of Irish heritage.

Well, as a country committed to fighting a War on Terror, it’s time the U.S. paid attention to Ireland because the success of a Northern Irish joint government could mean an end to one of the world’s most notorious terrorist organizations.

Talia Sampson is a junior news-editorial journalism and international relations major from Moorpark, Calif. Her column appears Thursdays.