'The Least Worst Option'

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BELFAST, Ireland: A leaked government memo which seems to show that Northern Ireland Secretary Mo Mowlam considered a Protestant march through a Catholic community "the least worst option" in avoiding conflict has delivered another setback for peace in Northern Ireland, reports TIME's Barry Hillenbrand. The memo, which gives the impression the British government ignored Catholic concerns by permitting the procession, is "a big topic of conversation in Belfast," he says. "The Catholics feel that this is a betrayal, that the British were carrying on negotiations for the show of it. What it has done is make the Catholics much more suspicious of what Blair plans to do." As riots raged on today, Mowlam denied taking sides with the Protestants, telling Parliament she "didn't have a view outside the desire to reach accommodation." At a press conference later in the day, she also admitted handling the crisis inappropriately and said that she realizes Catholics will not trust her any time soon. But in some respects, the conflict would have arisen no matter what Mowlam did, Hillenbrand says. "The problem is that two rights always make a wrong. Both communities have perfectly legitimate rights, so no matter which way she had gone, she would have antagonized one of them."