Thoughts on peace in Northern Ireland
Of course there are things that I don't like in the Agreement (first and foremost the early release of prisoners) and I would think that the same is true of the majority of the population; but I, unlike the majority of Ulster's politicians, understood the need to compromise. Over time, however, the majority of our politicians do appear to have learnt this lesson though and that's why they stayed in the negotiation process. The only political exceptions to this are the DUP and the UK Unionists. These two parties have, in my opinion, no desire for reconciliation. Either that, or they are too afraid to fight for their beliefs where it counts - at Stormont. Their excuse is that they will never talk to terrorists, but this is a ridiculous stance. In every conflict there comes a point when opposing parties must sit and resolve the situation - no matter what has happened in the past. The most recent comparison is with the former Yugoslavia. There, all sides have sat down (albeit with some assistance) and worked out a solution. This must also eventually happen in Northern Ireland. The majority of the parties have accepted this and now the unthinkable has happened – the Republicans and Loyalists have actually sat down on opposite sides of the same table. This has now led, through much blood, sweat and tears – too much blood and tears – to a tentative Agreement.
The Agreement has now got the support and endorsement for all the parties that took part in the Peace Process. On the 22nd May 1998, the Agreement was put to the people of the island of Ireland in a parallel referendum. Unfortunately, I was unable to vote, since my application for a postal vote was received too late, but I prayed for a Yes vote and I thank God that this happened. I would have liked a greater majority in favour than the 71% that we got in the North, but I am just glad that it has happened; the 94% majority in the South showed a great desire, I think, on the part of the people of Ireland for the Troubles in Ulster to end.