It hasn’t been a good month for President Clinton. His lobbying efforts to claim the Nobel Peace Prize were revealed by two Norwegian public relations firms, and the regions where he spent the most effort to win the prize Northern Ireland and the Middle East are anything but peaceful. Today, Protestant hard-liners will add to the unrest by trying to force the collapse of Northern Ireland’s new shared government by trying to vote out their leader, David Trimble, as top minister of the government.
The new government, which includes parties pushing for and against Northern Ireland’s unity with Britain, was frozen once before in February when Mr. Trimble’s pro-British Unionists were frustrated by the Catholic Sinn Fein’s inability to get the IRA to disarm. That time, the British forced the new government to become inactive to prevent Mr. Trimble from being forced to leave. In May after the government was once again revived, he barely survived a vote to oust him once more. This time, there is no mediator, and his loss of support in the council will force the vote to be a close one.
His Ulster Unionist Council will vote on a motion today that if the IRA has not started disarming by Nov. 30, Mr. Trimble will have to leave the government. Hard-liners also want Sinn Fein kicked out of the shared government if the IRA hasn’t disarmed by that date. But Mr. Trimble aptly is more interested in gaining greater concessions slowly than risking it all to ultimatums demanding change overnight.
With the withdrawal of either the Sinn Fein or the Unionists from the shared ruling body, the government will be forced to dissolve, leaving the door open for paramilitary violence to fill in the void. A poll by Ulster Marketing Surveys released yesterday found that 69 percent of the people support the 1998 Good Friday accord which established the shared executive, with 68 percent of Unionist voters supporting Mr. Trimble. The Council cannot allow hard-liners to block out the voices of the people at this crucial point in the Northern Irish peace process. To do so would show voters that the Council members care more for their egos than Northern Ireland’s lasting peace.