Mad Dogs and Englishwomen

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British Secretary of State Mo Mowlam has always shown a keen ability to cut through seemingly intractable problems with bold strokes, and her highly personal, risk-taking style has once again paid off. In an unprecedented visit to jailed Protestant terrorists inside the top-security Maze prison, she convinced the Protestant paramilitary groups to remain committed to peace talks for Northern Ireland. That means negotiations will reopen as scheduled on Monday with representatives present from both the pro-British Protestants and Sinn Fein.

Mowlam's 90-minute visit with convicts like Johnny "Mad Dog" Adair, who once said that the only Catholic he'd ever had in a car was a dead one, angered many in the British press who saw the visit as a legitimizing of the terrorists. The Belfast Telegraph harrumphed that "Dr. Mowlam may secure a short-term gain today, but the worry must be that she has demoted the cause of democracy in Northern Ireland." Meanwhile, the Independent praised the decision as a courageous gambit to keep the imperiled talks moving. At least for now.