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View From The World

United Kingdom
Northern Ireland

new internationalist
issue 255 - May 1994

View from the world

International opinions on Northern Ireland have never been welcomed
by the British Government - all the more reason for the NI to open the
door and let in a few of those perspectives.

"There is an impasse in Northern Ireland which it is not easy to see how to resolve. You might see a softening at the edges, a greater willingness to step over the barriers. Common schools [integrated education of Catholics and Protestants] are one sign of this; the talks between John Hume and Gerry Adams were another and that's why I signed a petition urging the British Government to take them seriously.

But I think a more general settlement will only come about if Europe moves towards regionalization, offering more autonomy to its culturally distinct regions like Catalonia and the Basque country in Spain, and Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland in the UK. For the moment the difference between Protestants and Catholics in terms of poverty, class and human rights is very marked."

Noam Chomsky, celebrated US linguist and political thinker.

"One parallel between the situation in Kashmir and that in Northern Ireland is the debate over whether the authorities should talk to terrorists. This has created almost as much acrimony in India as it has in Britain, with many people deploring the 'soft line' of the Indian Government when it negotiated with terrorists during the Hazratbal siege in Srinagar last year: a continuous dialogue with the militants was carried on quite openly and there was much outrage from hardliners when the Government decided to provide the besieged terrorists with food. But the Indian votaries of a softer approach may have been emboldened by the peacemongering in Northern Ireland."

Patralekha Chatterjee, Indian journalist currently living in Britain.

"As a Guatemalan I was impressed at the similarities between the situation in Northern Ireland and that in my own country: at the intensity of the discrimination, the small space for debate and public discussion, the abuse of physical power by the authorities and the lack of a serious justice system."

Frank La Rue, Guatemalan human-rights lawyer, now returning home after working in exile as Director of the Centre for Human Rights Legal Action in Washington, DC.

"I have a big estimation for the Great Britain people...and personally for John Major...he's an intellectual...a good man. I know we can discuss many problems. Maybe a good solution of his problem in Ireland [would be]...to include all Ireland in Great Britain...Ireland, Scotland, Wales, England - Great Britain!"

Vladimir Zhirinovsky, Russian right-wing politician.

"What we would like to see is that the British Government and the IRA should adopt precisely the line we have taken with regard to our own internal situation. There is nothing better than opponents sitting down to resolve problems in a peaceful manner."

Nelson Mandela, African National Congress, On a visit to Dublin, 1990.

"It should be recalled that in Ireland the 1922 peace agreement brought neither calm nor resolution of the conflict. On the contrary, the signing of that agreement and the establishment of the Irish Republic were followed by a bloody civil war. The cruel killings in the 1920s are engraved upon my childhood memories and remain among the first impressions in my life. In our case, too, we can expect the historic agreement with the PLO to be followed for a long time by violent clashes and terrorism. The powder keg still holds enough explosives, and there are enough elements around wishing to ignite the fuse."

Chaim Herzog, the sixth president of Israel, who was born and raised in Ireland.

"Ireland's 'troubles' are rooted in British colonialism. The legacy of colonialism these many generations later is the ongoing power struggle between the heirs of the colonizers and the heirs of the colonized. There will have to be a complete restructuring of power and wealth in Ireland, done in full recognition of this colonial history and aimed at creating a new form of unity. Until this happens, I don't think the 'troubles' will end."

Mary Ann O'Connor, an Irish-American now working for Oxfam Canada.

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New Internationalist issue 255 magazine cover This article is from the May 1994 issue of New Internationalist.
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