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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Irish Wait To Exhale And Hope For Peace

BELFAST, Northern Ireland -- On Feb. 9, the Irish Republican Army declared an end to Northern Ireland's 18-month-old cease-fire. In the days that followed, people here held their breath. Would the sectarian violence that had wracked this province for a quarter century return, just like before? Had the peace come to an end?


The answer is that it is too early to know; the IRA has not reinstated the cease-fire, and the people have yet to exhale.


But there has arisen a resistance movement, demanding, insisting, pleading, for the terrorists to "give us back our peace." The people of Northern Ireland are showing a commitment to ride out the uncertainty that is, by all accounts, unprecedented.


It is reflected, collectively and individually, in a variety of ways: the mass demonstrations last month that brought 150,000 people into the streets calling for peace; the petition signed by 80,000 people directed at political leaders involved in the peace negotiations; the letter-writing campaign to political leaders in the schools of County Down; the polls in the local newspapers showing overwhelming support -- among both Catholics and Protestants -- for the peace process.


?Prime Minister John Major on Thursday unveiled his plan for a complex and peculiar election to get Northern Ireland's parties around the same negotiating table, The Associated Press reported.


At stake in the May 30 election will be 110 seats in an advisory "forum" to negotiations slated to begin June 10. The first 90 seats would go to the top five parties in each of Northern Ireland's 18 parliamentary districts. This approach was demanded by the Ulster Unionists, who regularly win most of the seats using these boundaries. In a surprise compromise, Major said another 20 seats would be shared by the top 10 parties. Since there are only 10 that are players in Northern Ireland's political life, this guarantees every faction will win.