N Ireland: Peace in our Time?

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BELFAST: We've never been quite this far down the road of peace before. Today's historic announcement that the British government would invite Sinn Fein to take part in Northern Ireland peace talks was almost entirely a result of another historic event, the Labor Party's recent election victory. Tony Blair's administration was able to take the six-week-old IRA ceasefire on trust, in a way that John Major couldn't have done without it looking like backpedaling.

There are still a couple of major stumbling blocks. Most of the Protestant Unionist parties are furious at the idea of sitting around the table with men who, they claim, "still have blood on their hands" although this can be solved with Dayton-style talks, where the parties negotiate from separate rooms. When will it end? No one knows for sure. Even without Sinn Fein, peace talks have already dragged on for over a year now. The Blair administration will have its work cut out.