Why Britain's Election May Bedevil Irish Peace

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Note to the Nobel Peace Prize committee: Can you pick someone besides me this year? The honor (and the million-dollar prize) would be nice, but anyone you tap needs to watch his back. Mikhail Gorbachev won in 1990 and was tossed into oblivion in 1991. Henry Kissinger and Le Duc Tho were honored in 1973 for negotiating to end the Vietnam War — which didn't end until 1975, on terms hardly flattering to Kissinger. Yitzhak Rabin, Shimon Peres and Yasser Arafat were the winners in 1994; Rabin was assassinated, Arafat is embattled, and peace in the Middle East is becoming even more remote.

David Trimble, first minister of Northern Ireland, is another co-winner (1998) who must be wondering whether his accolade is really a curse. Bravely he has struggled to keep some forward momentum in the Ulster peace process, as much against hard-liners in his own Ulster Unionist Party (UUP) as against the Irish Republican Army (IRA) and its political front Sinn Fein. But the process is stuck in neutral, perhaps drifting backward. Last week, British prime minister Tony Blair and his Irish counterpart Bertie Ahern convened talks with Ulster politicians at Hillsborough Castle near Belfast. All the pomp and glitter, and an IRA statement that it was talking again with the international body in charge of putting paramilitary weapons beyond use, could not hide the lack of tangible progress on a Rubik's Cube of sticking points. Unionists want the IRA not just to gab about weapons disposal but to deliver; Sinn Fein wants Britain to cut troops and guard towers in Northern Ireland before it gives ground on guns; Blair won't demilitarize as long as Sinn Fein, as well as the moderate nationalist Social Democratic and Labour party (SDLP) led by John Hume (who shared Trimble's Nobel Prize), won't advise Catholics to join a reformed police force. Full Story...