United Isles

The underlying grand strategy of the Good Friday peace deal for Northern Ireland was to yoke together Protestants and Catholics, with British and Irish leaders in a series of common enterprises.

Basic theory: enemies linked together get used to working together.

That strategy's weakness lay in the ability of any grudging participant to sabotage the new political links.

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The infinitely cruel, sad bombing in the small market town of Omagh appears to have done the opposite. Leaders in Northern Ireland, Dublin, and London have joined in heartfelt condemnation of the bombing.

Prime Ministers Tony Blair and Bertie Ahern are the mentors of the peace deal. So there was no surprise in their quick and forceful agreement to mount a joint pursuit of the "Real IRA" zealots Mr. Ahern fingered as the bombers. They are led by a handful of veteran munitions handlers who left the IRA over the Good Friday pact.

The welcome surprise was Sinn Fein leader Jerry Adams's emotional denunciation of the bombers.

Now all parties joined in condemnation must show they can work together to prevent Protestant splinter group retaliation and future Real IRA attacks. British and Irish police and army leaders are already cooperating. Unionist leader David Trimble should seize the moment to ask militant Protestants to curb retaliation. Mr. Adams should press his IRA followers to authorize an initial handover of hidden arms. And both sides should press forward on opening the north's borders to more trade and travel.

That would be a fitting memorial to what Mary McAleese, the first Northern Irish president of Ireland, described as the "simple, humble innocence" callously murdered in Omagh.

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