Ireland Flares Up

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BELFAST, Northern Ireland: The first major eruption in the Irish peace is proving difficult to douse. As Protestant rioting intensified Monday and Tuesday and as rubber bullets flew, the exhortations in Belfast were divided along familiar lines: Talk or fight. On the side of dialogue: David Trimble, leader of Northern Ireland's largest Protestant party, and British prime minister Tony Blair, who have been in close contact over how to defuse the situation.

But in Ireland, the voices of war are always eager to be heard. "This is a battle that has to be won - no ifs, no buts!" shouted Democratic Unionist Party leader Ian Paisley, the chief opponent of April's peace agreement, upon arriving at the standoff site in Portadown, 30 miles outside of Belfast, to huge applause from the Orange Order crowd. Worried Trimble: "This situation has the capacity to destabilize... it could put at risk all the political progress we have achieved." Trimble has the will to make peace. He may now find out whether, as newly elected first minister of the Northern Ireland Assembly, he has the power to preserve it.