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Let's agree to differ, for peace sake

Sir - In their most recent statement the IRA indicate that photographic evidence showing the destruction of arms would hurt their sensitivities. Over the years we have seen various manifestations of the IRA. The Old, Official, Provisionals, Continuity, Real, and now we have The Sensitive IRA.

However, the IRA say they would agree to the presence of two clergymen to observe the process. With due respect to members of the clergy, I don't think knowledge of modern weaponry would be their forte. If the IRA are serious about instilling public confidence on the issue of decommissioning they should allow General De Chastelain to tell the people of Ireland precisely what weaponry has been destroyed in the whole process from beginning to end.

Finally, I believe that the Irish and British governments should have insisted that the release of IRA prisoners had to be linked directly to progress in the decommissioning of their weaponry. Minister Dempsey's letter of December 15 telling us that the Government cannot secure the decommissioning of IRA weaponry unless the killers of Det Garda McCabe are released does little to enhance public confidence regarding the commitment of Republicans to democracy. Tony Moriarty, Kenilworth Park, D6W

Sir - Having waded through your coverage, comment and so-called analysis of the current "peace-time talks" in the North we are left in little doubt as to your newspaper's position. Subtle the Sunday Independent ain't. Not one constructive comment could I find.

Could I remind you that 'up there', in that part of Ireland, there has been peace for some ten years or more, and as someone who grew up during the 'troubles', I feel very positive about the future. It's been a roller coaster ride, but it's gotta stop soon. Come on, give 'em a chance, for peace sake.

Robert McCann, Co Monaghan

Sir - In a week where Blair, Ahern, Sinn Fein and the DUP worked so hard to reach, what would have been a momentous peace agreement, your front page (12/12/04) was an absolute disgrace. Let's not lose sight of the fact that what began over 30 years ago started off with civil rights marches. The IRA are not terrorists or criminals, they are freedom fighters. Likewise members of Sinn Fein. Their ultimate aim is a united Ireland.

Gerry Adams is not a liar. He did not lie about the McCabe matter on the Late Late Show. I have deep sympathy for Mrs McCabe and her family. I respect the Taoiseach, but I do not believe his rebuttal about his verbal agreement and handshake with Gerry Adams.

Maureen Delaney, Kilkee, Co Clare

Sir - Eoghan Harris ( Sunday Independent, 12/12/04) raised an interesting issue when he highlighted a recent survey by Queens University Belfast which demonstrated that a majority of people in Northern Ireland would prefer direct rule to living under SF/DUP extremist rule. The paradox of these results is that were an election to be held tomorrow, it is a virtual certainty that a majority would vote for SF/DUP. The explanation is, of course, simple: nationalists would vote for SF in reaction to Paisley, and unionists would vote DUP in reaction to Adams.

It is not possible to stop only the DUP or only SF, both are simply different faces of the same phenomenon. They represent the twin poles of extremism. A move to the extremes by either side automatically causes the centre to collapse, resulting, inevitably, in a move to the extreme by the other side. Extremism is in the ascendant today simply because there is no viable centre. The centre could only be founded on co-operation between the UUP and SDLP. Both parties are currently acting independently and trying to ward off the threat of electoral extermination posed from within their own respective camps - a doomed strategy because it is impossible to stop only one pole of extremism. The ultimate, lunatic, form of this may yet be for the SDLP to try and be greener than SF, while the UUP tries to be more orange than the DUP. Neither party's act would be, or could be, convincing. It would simply convince the public that the centre had finally and totally collapsed.

There is a strand of thought within the UUP that Direct Rule is the escape route from SF/DUP domination. This is truly a council of despair. Quite apart from the fact that it reeks of pique, of kicking the ball off-side because your side is not winning, it is not viable. London simply does not want it. There are two other problems, firstly removing the goalpost of the Assembly does not mean that the game will end, it would simply assume different, and possibly more pathological forms.

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Secondly, Direct Rule now would result in many constituencies going un-represented, due to SF abstensionism from Westminster, while most of the others would return DUP MPs. This represents merely the deflection of extremism, not its defeat. The process of 'Balkanisation' would continue and the de-legitimisation of the state, through non-participation, would simply provide a further push towards the inevitable end of the extremist 'Balkanisation' road - repartition.

The only alternative to extremism is a viable centre formed on the co-operation of moderate nationalism and moderate unionism - but can the SDLP and the UUP meet the challenge? Sean Swan Belfast

Sir - My right to life depends on the state defending me from illegal violence. For this vital role I owe a debt of gratitude to the gardai and in particular to Garda Jerry McCabe who gave his life and Ben O'Sullivan who was badly injured.

The early release of the Castlerea four, will make a joke of the rule of law, undermine the morale of the gardai and interfere with the independence of the judiciary. In the hierarchy of needs: the first is freedom from want, and the second is freedom from fear.

The IRA has used fear to silence victims and witnesses. They also use fear as a tactic like now; unless the government agrees to release the four we will not stop paramilitary action. My version of Edmund Burke dictum applies in this case: for evil to succeed all that is necessary is to ignore the victims.

Noel Flannery, South Circular Road, Limerick

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