Patience is the key to success

(Editorial, Irish News)

Bertie Ahern was undoubtedly correct yesterday (Monday) when he
stressed the massive opportunities presented during the latest round
of political talks.

Where many observers will disagree with the Taoiseach is over his
suggestion that a failure to reach a consensus within the next two
weeks could leave the entire process in limbo until 2006.

There is little evidence that a breakthrough is about to take place
and the most recent public statements from the key players have
almost without exception been pessimistic.

A sudden flurry of activity is always possible and, as Mr Ahern
implied, the gap between nationalists and unionists is more than
capable of being bridged in the short term.

However, there are firm indications that the DUP in particular, for a
number of reasons, is not yet ready to do business with Sinn Féin.

This should not come as a major surprise as, having condemned the
Ulster Unionists as a 'push-over party' during previous negotiations,
the DUP was never likely to accept an early outcome.

Ian Paisley and his colleagues can sit tight until the UK general
election which is expected in May, with district council polls also
fixed for the same month, confident in the knowledge that they will
not be penalised by voters for any perceived intransigence.

It is also the case that those voices within the DUP who had been
talking up the need for flexibility and imagination seem to have
increasingly faded into the background.

Mr Paisley had the chance to draw his long political career to a
triumphant close by accepting the post of first minister and then
moving gracefully to retirement.

His reluctance to pay the price for this glittering prize – in the
shape of an accommodation with Sinn Féin – has allowed an air of
uncertainty to grow around the previously single-minded DUP.

Of course, some unionists will continue to express total scepticism
about the intentions of republicans on the central issue of

Such doubts are inevitable, but the reality is that the republican
movement is engaged in a journey which can only take it in one

Sinn Féin's political ambitions on both sides of the border require
the arms question to be resolved as part of a wider package, and the
remaining details are ready to be finalised.

Every effort must be made to broker a comprehensive deal in the
coming weeks, but the concept of a stark and looming deadline is

If devolution cannot be restored before May, then all concerned need
to start a fresh round of discussions immediately after the

While Tony Blair may well have other priorities by that stage, it
would be ludicrous to claim that he needs to personally attend every
meeting with the main Northern Ireland parties.

Sooner or later, nationalists and unionists will have to decide how
to progress their political relationships.

If that aim cannot be achieved before Christmas, we shall simply have
to go on trying in the new year.

Patient diplomacy may be frustrating, but it is the only way forward.

November 10, 2004

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