Blair to Irish: Just Say Yes

  • Share
  • Read Later
BELFAST: The ayes have it, British Prime Minister Tony Blair insisted Thursday in his bid to coax voters to deliver a resounding 'yes' on the Irish peace accord in Friday's referendum. TIME London bureau chief Barry Hillenbrand reports that anxiety over a "no" vote had increased after the initial euphoria over the deal gave way to mounting fear in the Protestant community -- spooked by the dire warnings of rejectionists -- that the early release of convicted IRA terrorists would set killers loose among them. Blair was at pains to reassure voters today to stress that parties committed to violence would be isolated by the peace process.

Poll numbers for the "no" vote stand at 20 to 25 percent, but more worrying to Blair has been the 20 to 25 percent undecided. "The 'yes' campaign has lacked energy," says Hillenbrand. "The problem is that nobody in Northern Ireland's really enthusiastic about the deal, because there are too many warts on it for both sides." Still, says Hillenbrand, the trusty alternative-too-ghastly-to-contemplate mantra will propel a majority on both sides to say yes -- through gritted teeth.