Northern Ireland Protestants Call the IRA's Bluff

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In Northern Ireland's peace negotiations, everything is hard, every single deal a leap of faith by people on both sides who have lost friends and relatives during the 30-year conflict and are understandably wary. But optimism is suddenly once again the order of the day now that the Ulster Unionist Party has voted to allow its enemy, Sinn Fein, into the region's nascent government without first making a least a token effort to disarm its military wing, the IRA. The condition, which has already rubbed Sinn Fein members the wrong way, is that the IRA will have to begin disarming by January 31. "We've jumped," Unionist leader David Trimble said in a statement aimed at Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams. "You follow."

Not everyone in Trimble's party is comfortable with his leap. Concerned about letting Sinn Fein in without first seeing some automatic weapons made into plowshares, only 58 percent of the membership approved of the deal. One Ulster MOP called it "akin to turkeys voting for Christmas." Still, what's important isn't so much the weapons as it is the people using them, and this deal is an important and necessary leap of faith to put George Mitchell's historic peace deal back on track.