Anglo-Irish council: remedy for violence in N. Ireland?

By , Special to The Christian Science Monitor

A new political initiative for Northern Ireland is to be discussed Nov. 6 when Irish Prime Minister Garret FitzGerald travels to London for a summit conference with British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.

The one-day conference will review Anglo-Irish relations, focusing on potential areas of improving economic and social conditions.

Tourism and exchanges of electricity and natural gas across the border between Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic are among the most promising areas of cooperation.

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But Dr. FitzGerald is also believed to be proposing a radical new Anglo-Irish council to oversee a range of cooperative ventures.

Dublin favors a three-tier structure, the first of which would consist of politicians from London, Dublin, and Belfast. It would function as an entirely new forum to discuss all aspects of common interest between Ireland and Britain.

The second tier would be made up of civil servants, and the third would consist of regular meetings between ministers from Dublin and London.

Former Prime Minister Charles Haughey says he thinks the new council should discuss an ultimate settlement of the Northern Ireland problem.

But the plan has been rejected outright by Northern Ireland's Protestant politicians, who see such a council as a threat that might defeat their resistance through eventually unifying Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic.

Because of their opposition it is thought Mrs. Thatcher will not be prepared to give the green light to setting up the council.

And British ministers appear reluctant to authorize any radical political moves as long as the violence continues. They will be looking for more cooperation on joint security matters when the two prime ministers meet.

Relations between London and Dublin have cooled recently, and the coming meeting will attempt to put the two governments back on an even footing.

The hunger strike by the Provisional wing of the illegal Irish Republican Army (IRA)prisoners in Northern Ireland diverted attention from constructive politics, and Irish claims of ''inflexibility'' in handling the crisis widened the gulf between the two governments' perceptions of the Northern Ireland problem.

Dublin ministers remain convinced that a major political initiative is required to begin a process of restoring peace and reconciliation in Northern Ireland.

The IRA has been given a new lease on life in the aftermath of the hunger strike. Record sums have been reaching them from supporters in the United States. And they claim to have been recruiting members at unprecedented levels.

This past weekend Provisional Sinn Fein, the political wing of the IRA, announced at its annual conference in Dublin that it would be putting up candidates in any forthcoming elections in Northern Ireland or the Irish Republic.

Their confidence to ''go political'' is based on their belief that they are now in a position to defeat moderate Roman Catholic politicians, who have previously had little difficulty dealing with extremists.

Mrs. Thatcher's new secretary of state for Northern Ireland, James Prior, is known to favor greater economic cooperation with the Irish Republic.

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