N. Ireland Must Try Again

The key institution in the Northern Ireland peace plan, a legislative body where Protestants and Catholics share power, has again been suspended. But its promise of cooperation among old enemies is still in effect.

This time the immediate cause of suspension was the uncovering of an Irish Republican Army (IRA) spy ring within the offices of British Northern Ireland secretary John Reid. The spying sparked fresh concerns among many Protestant leaders that the IRA and its political wing, Sinn Fein, are keeping violent options open even as they take part in the power-sharing.

Certainly, Sinn Fein owes its partners in government, and the broader Ulster populace, an explanation of why such spying is still pursued.

This activity, like the continued hoarding of weapons, reflects attitudes stuck in the past. Most of the province's people have moved beyond those attitudes to a genuine appreciation of the rewards of peace and daily life free of terror.

The British move to suspend power-sharing should be as short-lived as possible. Negotiations should forge ahead on such priorities as relinquishment of weapons, disbanding armed groups, and reforming the Ulster police.

Rebuilding the fragile trust that allows former antagonists to work together is the delicate task facing Mr. Reid and the leaders of both Britain and Ireland. That work should set the stage for elections in Northern Ireland next spring and a full revival of the peace process.

This process seems subject to frequent ups and down. But one fundamental "up" isn't likely to go down: Most of Northern Ireland's people aren't about to let go of peace.

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