- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 17, 2001

David Trimble, the leader of the Ulster Unionist party who resigned in July as first minister of Northern Ireland, was in Washington this week to underscore a message. His three Unionist ministers remaining in the Northern Ireland Cabinet will likely resign by the end of the week as a result of the IRA and other paramilitary groups' refusal to get rid of their arms. The removal of the ministers would cause the political institutions set up by the Good Friday accords to allow home rule to fall, and the British to take over. "I would hope that recent events would concentrate the minds of those who have past involvement with terrorism," Mr. Trimble said in an interview with this page. He said he hoped the attacks in the United States would cause paramilitaries in Northern Ireland to use peaceful rather than violent means to accomplish their objectives. Unfortunately, they haven't.
On Friday, the British government added three Protestant paramilitaries to the list of Catholic and Protestant paramilitaries that are no longer maintaining cease-fires. They have killed, organized rioting in north Belfast, attacked Catholic schoolgirls on their way to school and launched pipe-bomb attacks. Nor has the Irish Republican Army, Northern Ireland's biggest paramilitary organization, taken any further steps to put its arms beyond use since it withdrew its offer to do so in August. This, despite the fact that deadlines for disarmament have come and gone many times since the Good Friday accords called for decommissioning in 1998.
Words from either side no longer hold any weight. Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams' condemnation of the terrorist attacks in the United States was ludicrous given that it was made one month after the discovery that three IRA men, one a Sinn Fein "ambassador" to Cuba, had been training Colombia's FARC in urban warfare and in the use of explosive weapons. Just as ironic were the words of the Ulster Defense Association, whose promise to abide by a cease-fire in September was quickly forgotten this month as it led attacks in Belfast.
Rule of Northern Ireland will be ceded back to Britain at midnight Nov. 3 or likely more quickly than that if the Unionist ministers resign if the paramilitaries continue to refuse to lay down their arms. Mr. Trimble, who won the 1998 Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts in the Northern Ireland, would rather give up home rule than sit in a government that allows terrorism. The people of Ulster have come too far to allow their dreams of peace to be hijacked. The time for disarmament is now.

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