"This could be the beginning of the end," remarked a constable at Belfast's central police station last week. "Everyone is going crazy." Even for Northern Ireland, that seemed an extreme statement. But last week, ten more people were killed in Belfast, bringing the total killed in Ulster since 1969 to 701; most were random victims of gunmen generating terror in the midst of a political vacuum.

More killing seemed inevitable. The militantly Protestant Ulster Defense Association, which only two months ago pledged that it would do "all in its power" to prevent back-street murders, announced at midweek that it could...

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