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Why are these men smiling?

May 8, 2007 |  4:55 pm

As historic photo-ops go, it’s hard to beat the two-shot of Ian Paisley and Martin McGuinness, smiling over the launching of a new power-sharing government in Belfast.  But there’s  something slightly creepy about the embrace by these two extremists of the Gospel According to Rodney King.

It’s nice that the pope-bashing Paisley and the ex-“hard man” McGuinness have realized that we all can get along.  And it’s heartening that the Northern Ireland "peace process" was helped along by  various angels, including John Major, Tony Blair, Bill Clinton and moderate-minded Irish Catholics in the North, the Republic and the United States. (It is easy to forget how many Irish-Americans romanticized the IRA in the 1970s and ‘80s.)

But the terms of the truce—a fudge in which Northern Ireland remains part of the United Kingdom (which nevertheless has no “selfish interest” in holding onto it) but is also politically close to the Irish Republic—are hardly worth the body count from the Troubles. What did almost 4,000 deaths produce? Aside from some great literature, not much.  The British didn’t “give Ireland back to the Irish” (as if Protestants in the North weren’t Irish); nor were Orangemen  rewarded with a restoration of “a Protestant parliament for a Protestant people.” Peace has broken out, but for too many it's the peace of the grave.

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