Progress in Northern Ireland?

A carefully orchestrated series of events Tuesday renewed hope that Northern Ireland's Good Friday peace process may finally be moving again.

First, British Prime Minister Tony Blair announced Nov. 26 local elections for the troubled British-ruled province. Then Gerry Adams, president of Sinn Fein, the Irish Republican Army's political wing, said his party and the IRA are committed to "exclusively peaceful and democratic means of solving difficulties." The IRA itself followed with a statement saying it had "decommissioned" more of its weapons under the supervision of Canadian Gen. John de Chastelain.

Mr. Blair and his Irish counterpart, Prime Minister Bertie Ahern, hope the moves will lure David Trimble's moderate Ulster Unionist Party back into a coalition government including Sinn Fein. Blair was forced to cancel elections set for last May when the IRA refused to give adequate assurances it would disarm and stop other hostile activities, such as intelligence- gathering and "punishment beatings."

The final step to peace will be up to the province's Protestant unionist and Catholic nationalist voters. To ensure it, they must vote in November for those parties committed to working together in the interests of both communities.

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