Peace Plan Outlined For N. Ireland Most Irish Parties Pleased
The British and Irish governments Monday unveiled an outline for a settlement in Northern Ireland that would create a series of institutions inextricably linking the two neighboring islands economically, socially and politically.
The “Propositions on Heads of Agreement” is a mere nine paragraphs that consume slightly more than a single sheet of paper. But it is meant to form the basis of an overall settlement to end nearly 30 years of conflict that have taken more than 3,000 lives and poisoned relations between Britain and Ireland.
The province’s main Protestant and Catholic parties, deadlocked since the talks began in June 1996, applauded the proposals, which seek to give something to all sides in a political culture that has traditionally equated compromise with treason.
Seven political parties in the talks seemed pleased, but the IRA-allied Sinn Fein party withheld judgment in public and complained in private. The package falls far short of the Irish Republican Army’s goal of ending British rule and abolishing the entity of Northern Ireland - which Sinn Fein calls an “artificial” state.
Britain’s Northern Ireland Secretary Mo Mowlam and Irish Foreign Minister David Andrews had not planned to announce the plan on the first day of negotiations after a four-week break. But both decided they had to impose discipline immediately because of rising violence and little sign of movement from the parties.
The proposals envision carefully balanced reforms that keep Northern Ireland firmly tied to Britain, hand responsibility back to local politicians and expand the north’s relationship with the Irish Republic.
Those moves include:
A new Northern Ireland lawmaking assembly to “ensure that all sections of the community can participate and work together successfully.”
A bill of rights to secure “equity of treatment and freedom from discrimination, and the cultural identity and ethos of both (Catholic and Protestant) communities.”
A new North-South Ministerial Council to bring together lawmakers from both parts of Ireland to “consult, cooperate and take decisions on matters of mutual interest.” The council would be accountable to the Belfast and Dublin legislatures.
Another new council to bring together lawmakers from London, Dublin, Belfast and new legislatures approved last year by voters in Scotland and Wales.
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