The 2000 election must not be forgotten.
The world needs more ballots, not more bullets.
Cracks in the Coalition
The rest of the world begins to sour on the war.
Abortion Under Attack
Chipping away at the right to choose.
But Venezuela's "revolution" faces many obstacles.
Selling the War.
The IRA moves forward with decommissioningbut some loyalists don't want peace.
New Yorkers elect Bloomberg as their next mayor.
There's a Police Riot Goin' On
Anti-war marchers feel the chill in Connecticut.
Climate of Fear
Long Island activist is charged as a "terrorist."
Fred Korematsu made a federal case out of it.
MUSIC: No joy for New Order.
The Vagina that Roared
BOOKS: Susanna Kaysen's "sore spot."
FILM: Fat Girl and French Feminism.
Mind out of Time
The seven ages of Bob.
November 9, 2001
The IRA moves forward with decommissioningóbut some loyalists donít want peace.
What happens when a guerrilla army wants to gradually put their weapons beyond
useto fully embrace a political way forwardand their opponents
wont let them? In Northern Ireland, the answer is political chaos.
When Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams stated weeks ago that he was encouraging
the IRA to begin the decommissioning of some of their arsenal, and within days
the announcement came that the process had begun, many thought the unprecedented
move would be rewarded by jubilation in the unionist community. After all, the
decommissioning of IRA weapons has been a constant demand of unionist leaders
since the official peace process began with the IRA ceasefire of 1994. It also
had been a major barrier to consolidating the new political institutions established
under the Good Friday Agreement, signed in 1998.
Adams said that the IRA gesture, unprecedented in its violent struggle to remove
the British from Ireland, would deprive opponents of the peace process of their
main argument. But strong elements within unionism have never reconciled themselves
to sharing power with Sinn Fein or more moderate nationalists, preferring the
certainties of continued conflict to what they perceive as inexorable nationalist
David Trimble, still leader of a bitterly divided Ulster Unionist Party, called
for his ministers to re-enter the Northern Irish Assembly after the IRA move.
Whatever his flawsin many ways he has been a reluctant leaderTrimble
realizes the importance of working the political process and firmly believes
that the union with Britain is safe. But as two members of his own party defected,
again demanding more from the IRA, Trimble failed to achieve the majority of
the unionist vote in the Assembly he needed to be re-elected first minister.
In the complex voting rules of the Assembly designed to ensure majority support
from both communities, the lack of majority support from unionist members, which
included anti-Good Friday followers of Ian Paisleys Democratic Unionist
Party (DUP), meant that a more circuitous route for saving Trimble and the institutions
had to be found.
In an act of political sleight-of-hand, the small non-sectarian
Alliance Party agreed to redesignate some of its Assembly members as unionist,
allowing Trimble the majority he needed to return as first minister. Anti-Good
Friday unionists regarded the move as an indication of Trimbles desperation,
calling the whole process a circus. But others saw the Alliance
Partys actions as a healthy sign of a more malleable and fluid political
identity in the face of a deeply polarized society. After the vote, which Paisley
tried to block with a failed legal appeal, fighting broke out between nationalist
and DUP Assembly members during a press conference.
But the political maneuvering cant hide the fundamental fissure within
the unionist community. Trimbles UUP lost seats to Paisley in the last
parliamentary election, and there is concern that in the next Assembly elections
in 2003, the DUP will overtake Trimble. That would result in more demands for
complete IRA disarmament and an attempt to undermine Sinn Feins democratic
And Adams has his own difficulties. While he never moves without thoroughly
preparing the political ground beforehand, decommissioning of weapons, even
to an independent body, has been difficult for many Republicans in the absence
of Irish unity. His main concern has been to avoid a major split within the
IRA that would send more volunteers into the arms of the Real IRA, a dissident
group that opposes Adams and the peace agreement. Before a meeting of Sinn Feins
governing body, Adams admitted that the last week [of decommissioning]
has been a hurtful one for many Republicans. He added: Decommissioning
was an act of patriotism. Patriotism requires pain. The prize is a just and
Extremists continue to hamper the peace process. The Real IRA tried to explode
a car bomb in Birmingham on November 3, not far from the location of a previous
IRA bomb that killed 21 people in 1974. On the unionist side, recent rampages
in North Belfast against Catholic youths attempting to attend school have been
reminiscent of the ugliest periods during the American civil rights struggle.
While the Royal Ulster Constabulary has been renamed the Police Service of
Northern Ireland, Sinn Fein has refused to serve on the public boards that oversee
the police. While the moderate, nationalist Social Democratic and Labour Party
is serving, Sinn Fein believes more thoroughgoing reform is necessary before
it will participate. Transforming the largely Protestant police into a representative
and effective force could be the most important challenge Northern Ireland faces
in the coming years. IRA and loyalist vigilantism and police collusion with
loyalist paramilitaries has plagued both communities.
The IRAs move was a bold one, even though it was made in the context
of increasing political and moral pressure in the wake of the September 11 terrorist
attacks in the United States. If the unionists and the British can be as bold,
the last act of a grueling national tragedy may have opened.