What Northern Ireland needs now is a renewal of the vision that brought it a credible peace plan two years ago. That plan is in danger, again, of disappearing in a fog of mistrust.
Over the weekend, Ulster Unionist Party leader David Trimble was forced to make some unfortunate commitments in order to keep his post. Party hard-liners wanted a Nov. 30 deadline to withdraw from the peace process unless the Irish Republican Army started turning in its weapons.
Disarmament has been a major sticking point all along.
Mr. Trimble held off the hard-liners' challenge, but moved in their direction, effectively setting his own timetable for disarmament. He also said he'd deny representatives of Sinn Fein, the IRA's political arm, a role in ministerial conferences between the Republic of Ireland and the new Northern Ireland Assembly, which includes Protestant and Catholic parties and was set up under the peace plan.
These steps could raise temperatures yet again. Calm and farsightedness are needed to emphasize the long-term interests of all Northern Ireland's citizens in peace.
The IRA must do its part. It has taken a small step toward disarmament by agreeing to allow international inspection of its arms dumps. It should now engage the peace plan's disarmament commission in sustained talks, leading to a final turnover of weapons.
Meanwhile, the best assurance that those weapons won't be used is to keep all parties working within the peace structure.
(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society