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IRA Ceasefire - do you back Mowlam?

The Secretary of State has made it quite obvious that the creation of a terrorist wing is the most effective tool that any party can employ.
Keith, Northern Ireland

What else can she do to maintain peace. Upset the Republicans and we have violence, upset the Loyalists we have violence. Keep it up Mo.
Mark , Ireland

Background ¦ Vote ¦ Your reaction ¦ Have your say

The Vote:
Do you back Mo Mowlam on the IRA ceasefire?
Yes No

Background ¦ Vote ¦ Your reaction ¦ Have your say

The Background:

The IRA has been clearly linked to a "savage and disgraceful" murder of a taxi driver and an alleged arms smuggling plot - but its ceasefire has not broken down.

That's the verdict of Northern Ireland Secretary Mo Mowlam, who was briefed by her senior security advisors before making a judgment on the IRA truce on Thursday.

Dr Mowlam admitted the IRA had "sailed close to the wind", the ceasefire had been breached but had not broken down - and the prisoner release programme would go on.

The Search for Peace
She knew any ruling against the IRA could easily have prompted Sinn Fein to walk away from the imminent cross-party review of the Good Friday Agreement.

Dr Mowlam insisted she had left Sinn Fein in no doubt that all violence was unacceptable, but Ulster Unionist MP Jeffrey Donaldson immediately said she had lost all credibility and should resign.

But what do you think?

Is Dr Mowlam's verdict on the ceasefire right as she strives to keep the peace process review on track? Or should she have taken a sterner view?

Background ¦ Vote ¦ Your reaction ¦ Have your say

Your Reaction:

Read the first comments we received

There has already been an attempt at a vote by the Irish to decide whether they want to stay part of the UK and it was unsuccessful, that is a very difficult road to take with an unlikely chance of succeeding. Perhaps the answer would be for the Government to try to work together to solve the problem and support each other. The only way the Irish problem will be solved is by mutual respect and agreement. That is what Dr. Mowlam is attempting to do.
Megan, UK

Mo Mowlam has to give the best background possible for the Mitchell Review. To take a strong stance with the Republicans at this stage would change the status quo. In a difficult situation she has reluctantly made the correct choice.
John Smith, UK

It's all very well reading the comments on this page, but I live here and, believe me, this is the first peace I have experienced here in 30 years. I back Mo all the way. Hang in there Mo and make it work.
Noel, Derry

Dr. Mowlam has shown extraordinary naivety in talking to the terrorists (that's what they are). She should be replaced.
G. Massey, England

I think it is terribly sad that Mo Mowlam - after taking the advice of her professional security advisers - has been so roundly criticised for taking such a brave and far-sighted decision. Do people not realise that the "IRA" is not an homogenous group with the same levels of discipline as a "real" army, and more than the protestant leaders are in control of their paramilitaries. Sinn Fein leaders in particular walk a tightrope whilst trying to bring their rank and file with them into a new era of democracy and peace.
What good would throwing them out of the talks have done? Simply plunged Ireland (and possibly the rest of the British Isles) into another spasm of mindless violence in which the overwhelming number of victims would have been innocent bystanders.
Unfortunately for them, our political leaders have to live and negotiate in the real world, where moral imperatives have to be balanced against real outcomes. Mo Mowlam is the most successful Minister in Northern Ireland since Direct Rule began, and is patently a sincere and immensely hard-working individual. She deserves our support, and much-needed time. If only the knee-jerk politicians on the ground in Northern Ireland showed one hundredth of her obvious courage and compassion this tragic situation might be resolved for once and for all.
Steve, Australia

Letting thugs out without taking their guns was a fatal flaw in the agreement. Most of the people in NI on both sides are sick of the troubles. Ask them what they want in secret ballot. e.g. Would they welcome the death penalty, or internment, or let the thugs walk free, or place conditions on freedom etc, etc. They live (and die) with what a few politicians dictate.
Dave, England

The Tories have got some nerve criticising Labour for their handling of Northern Ireland. It wasn't until Tony Blair came into office that any real progress was made, and he was very expedient in getting the peace process moving.
For all the years that the Conservatives were in power, they seemed content to let Northern Ireland rot. When William Whitelaw said he didn't want the same plastic bullets that were used by the RUC and the troops in Northern Ireland introduced to control the riots that were sweeping England in the early eighties because "they are lethal", he demonstrated the Conservative party line: Violence is okay, as long as it's in Northern Ireland; an Irish life is expendable. Is this what Hague and his cronies suggest is a good policy toward Northern Ireland?
And I'm not pro-nationalist or pro-unionist; neither side is behaving in a manner that demonstrates that they're fit to govern. Sharing and co-operation are skills that most people learn in primary school; perhaps the leaders need to refresh their education.
L Cannon, USA

There is simply no alternative being presented. We must reach the peace that the people want.
Pat, N. Ireland

"...the ceasefire had been breached but had not broken down..." I'm sorry Mrs. Mowlam but a ceasefire is an absolute thing. One bullet, one bomb and it's finished. How, pray, can a ceasefire be breached yet not broken. Is a breached thing whole? No. It is broken.
Kevin Bennett, UK

When is Hague going to participate in the peace process (& the running of this country in general) rather than just sniping at Labour. The Unionists kept the last Tory government in power, now the Tories are supporting the Unionists at the expense of peace. It's time the Tories stop acting like school boys & more like statesmen, pressurising all sides to sit down & give the people what they want - peace.
Steve Storer, UK

What kind of "peace" allows IRA terrorists to murder an innocent man in cold blood and then threaten to do the same to more young men if they do not leave their country? Obviously there is no real ceasefire while there are still people in Northern Ireland in fear of their lives from these murderers.
Mo Mowlam should never have released these convicted terrorists until decommissioning had begun and true commitment was shown to the peace process. As soon as things stop going their way the terrorist groups from both sides will be able to start killing again. After all of this it is no wonder that the Unionists are losing faith in Mo Mowlam. She should resign.
Jacqui, England

The only solution to the troubles that I can see is a vote for either dependence or independence from the UK. Why should both communities suffer? Also, the people of NI must understand that there are many people in the world with greater hardship. I believe that our tax should be used to help these people and other minorities and our nation's health. From my understanding both communities are too big headed to resolve their differences. Both stand to lose face which seems to be the biggest obstacle to an ever lasting peace.
Steve Dawson, UK

Letting what is effectively an "army" out of prison without decommissioning is a completely irrational.
Andy M, UK

I think that the IRA is playing a very clever game with the British Government....and appears to be winning hands-down!
Clare, Northern Ireland

If an organisation carried out murder on the mainland - they would be hunted down and brought to justice. Stop releasing prisoners and bring maximum pressure on these killers. There is no peace when you have armed paramilitaries conducting their affairs throughout NI with impunity...
Mark, UK

The labour government have always given in to the IRA/Sinn Fein in the belief that they will react in a human way. They seem to forget they are dealing with murdering scum who have been murdering all their lives. They don't know how to react like normal people and shouldn't be treated like normal people but like the murderers they are.
The UUP is a respectable political party who are always put into the same class as Sinn Fein/IRA. This degrades an honest party that has never been involved in violence. Once the labour party realises this they can then try to sort out the troubles in Northern Ireland instead of giving in to murderers. If a gang in mainland UK kills a person they get treated like killers and get sent to prison but in Northern Ireland still part of the UK under UK law a gang does the same offence an keep doing it they will get release from prison. Where is the democracy in this? From a very concern person from Portadown N.Ireland
Harry, U.K.

The IRA is in clear breach of it's ceasefire. Why are we pretending otherwise? We have we not excluded Sinn Fienn-IRA from the Peace Talks, and why have we not started arresting IRA terrorists and members of their 'Army Council' such as Jerry Adams.
More importantly, however, why are the six teenagers the IRA are forcing out of the province left to be cared for by a Charity? Surely the Special Branch or MI5 could protect them? Surely we have the resources - both police and military - to protect them in their own communities? The sooner we accept the fact all the IRA want to do is kill people who don't agree with them and we do something positive about it the better!!!
James Morgan, UK

The IRA's ceasefire is as intact as the so-called Loyalists. The sad fact remains that the recent high-profile exiling of several youths were apparently supported by the local communities. The sooner we can reach a situation where the only form of justice which the people respect is not paramilitary justice, the better. A statement from all parties that exiles, beatings and murders are unacceptable from anyone would go a long way to allowing progress.
Mick, UK

Democracy? Would it not be "democratic" to let the Irish to decide the future of Ireland and not leave the problem to groups of religious and political bigots?
Basil Coram, UK

Democracy is based on the premise of government by the people, for the people. There can be no democracy when the wishes, aspirations and actions of the few carry more weight than those of the majority. Dr Mowlam is pandering to fascism and history has shown us how dangerous that is.
Gary Hill, Northern Ireland

It is a disgrace that Mo Mowlam has declared that the IRA ceasefire is intact, when it is clearly not. When the IRA thinks it has the right to murder people and issue death threats, and has refused to decommission any of its weapons, it is clear that its ceasefire is worthless. The British government should stop releasing any more IRA prisoners early, and should declare the IRA ceasefire has been breached. I also feel that Mo Mowlam should resign immediately.
John, UK

There have been 384 people forced out of Northern Ireland by the IRA since the Good Friday Agreement of 16 months ago. That's 24 per month. That's 1 every day of the week for the past year and a half. Yet now we have this "news" about 5 boys being forced out. The thuggery involved in every one of these threats is of course to be appalled, but so too is the extent to which Ulster Unionists and their apologists in the Conservative party in Britain are grabbing at these reprehensible incidents as somehow akin to what went on before the ceasefire. Mo Mowlam has made, on balance, the right decision and is to be commended. Mo Mowlam is more genuinely committed to the cause of peace in Northern Ireland than half the Ulster Unionist party.
Brian Kennedy, London

Mo needs to step down. She conducts politics as a negotiator looking for win-wins. Sinn Fein/IRA conducts politics as war - kick them when they are down. Mo can never win in this situation. She will always be taken advantage of by non-democratic forces such as Sinn Fein/IRA. A different type of person is needed.
Tom Campbell, USA

Mo Mowlam had no other option but to declare the ceasefire in tact. The Republican support group in government headed by Blair would have had it no other way. She has committed an act of terrible appeasement which the IRA have mocked since. When the first soldier or RUC officer is killed she will be as much to blame if not more so than those who pull the trigger.
Louise McLaughlin, Scotland, UK

It is a fact that the majority of decent people in NI voted in favour of the Good Friday agreement in the belief that violence would be taken out of society and that any differences of opinion would be debated without the threat of violence by extremists in general and the IRA in particular. What we have seen is a cynical campaign by Sinn Fein/IRA to further their aims by the threat of violence, by a breakdown of the "peace campaign" and unfortunately the absolute fear by the secretary of state of bombing starting on the mainland again has seen her appease the terrorists at every turn. Readers should note that whilst any reasonable person will vote for peace that does not mean peace at any price and I doubt if a "YES" vote would win the day if an election was held now.
B Kelly, UK

Mo Mowlam is no longer moving the peace process forward but has become a lap dog to the IRA. She has done great things in the past but she should now move aside and let someone else have a go.
Gaynor Cooke, England

Ceasefire ?? What ceasefire ? After the outrage in Omagh and the continuing spate of killings, beatings and terrorist threats, not to mention that the paramilitary forces are still in possession of a vast amount of heavy weaponry, how can Dr. Mowlam talk of ceasefire and a 'still intact' peace accord. Nonsense. Dr. Mowlam must only read Hello Magazine and only watch KTV if she believes that Ulster is at peace.
Neil Ashurst, UK expat in Ghana

I would just like to say that I have always believed Britain should support the US when its people have been the victims of terrorism. I have in mind the attacks on the US Marines in Beirut, the murders of over 260 people on the Pan am flight and the Achille Lauro Hijack to name but a few. Therefore, I can not understand those from the US who support the IRA in their so-called war against British imperialism. After all, when Islamic extremists kill Americans they say they are fighting American imperialism.
Peter Allen, England

Congratulations to Sam Beattie. It's good to hear what the actual people of NI think. It's sad to see the number of people who comment without really knowing what's going on. (Particularly from the USA, just read what Seosamh Seoigh wrote!). Maybe this will prompt people to research the facts, not read the propaganda put forward by so many groups. Since living in Boston I've read so much, lets just say, historically incorrect work about NI & Eire, I almost forgive Seosamh Seoigh for her ignorance. (by the way, I lived in Dunmurry for 8 months)
Chris Lees, Boston, USA

I have been watching the BBC news today, and note that another teenager has been threatened by the IRA as I understand it. Although on the news it did not state why the teenagers are being threatened, and I don't know why either as I haven't followed the story from the beginning, I believe the originating issue is that some of the people from Northern Ireland want independence from the United Kingdom. Would a vote from the people of Northern Ireland be more appropriate as to whether they want independence from the UK be more productive? If they voted no, then perhaps talks could have a basis as to what the majority of people in Northern Ireland want. If they voted yes, then let Northern Ireland go. Or have we already done that? I think that if focus on what the people want, rather than a "gang" of terrorists, the people will prevail, and everyone else's opinions be put aside, including the Government. Of course, the Government should advise if they see the people are making a rash decision, and are unaware of any long term disadvantages to their decision, but surely this would be better than teenage people being threatened with their lives, bombings and more loss of life. Are we loosing sight of the reason why Northern Ireland is upset?
Andrew Morris, United Kingdom

The essence of a ceasefire during a war is the absence of attacks directed at an opponent's forces. Viewed from a military perspective (rather than from a political one), the killing of an informer is more akin to internal administration and is thus only peripheral to the war. As such it cannot constitute a breach of the ceasefire. When viewed from a political perspective, the issue of whether a single act (or even a series of acts) constitutes a breach of a ceasefire must be assessed in context. That is, whether the event is so egregious as to warrant terminating the ceasefire altogether and resuming active hostilities. I believe that Marjorie Mowlam likely considered the Charles Bennett matter from both the military and political perspectives and reached the correct conclusion. She was undoubtedly beset by powerful interests who have traditionally held sway within Northern Ireland and in Britain as well. Her decision required considerable courage and should be applauded. Those who oppose Dr. Mowlam's pronouncement are principally those who oppose the Good Friday Agreement in general and its implementation in particular. She was beset by powerful interests who have
Graydon Wilson, United States

The largest number of intimidations and expulsions have been perpetrated by the so-called Loyalist factions. We hear very little about that from the Unionist politicians and the BBC. Practically daily Catholics are been forced from their homes in Loyalist neighbourhoods, Catholic Churches are being harassed yet little is made of this. We know that in the various enclaves, be they Nationalist or Loyalist, the distrust of the RUC means that hooligans like the expelled youths are not been followed up by the RUC. Unfortunately the local people then call on the various paramilitary groups to pick up the slack. It's most unfortunate but, it is the result of many decades of neglect by successive British governments, particularly Conservative government who have aligned themselves with the predominantly Orange Unionist political factions. Mowlan is right to keep her eye on the big objective i.e. the establishment of a political entity which will start building the just society which has been long needed in the North of Ireland. Events such as that referred to are all to common in societies that are now or have been in the past in a similar stage of transition.
Patrick Brennan, Canada

The so called "cease-fire" is a sham and appears entirely cosmetic. Let's judge the cease fire on the amount of punishment beatings, intimidation, gangsters related activities and overall willingness to decommission. It appears that PIRA have just decided to focus on less high-profile violence instead, to give those people not in NI a false impression. In short appeasement for Sinn Fein / PIRA. The government needs to take off it's green tinted glasses before any credibility is breathed into Northern Ireland's future.
Ian, UK

David Trimble is a disgrace! I wish Tony Blair would have the courage to kick Northern Ireland out of the UK. There have been numerous agreements, bills, ceasefires, deadlines etc but still the politicians of NI cannot get their act together and go for piece. As an English taxpayer I am fed up with having to contribute the welfare and stability of NI. My money could be better spent of GB causes. Trimble, Paisley and there kind are not interested in peace only dominance. But when things go wrong they look to blame everybody but themselves. Leave the old bigots to it Mo, your talents are better spent elsewhere.
Steve Wallis, England

It is all very well for people (esp. those in the States) to demand that England pulls out of Ireland (see Seosamh Seoigh's remark below), but the truth is that thousands ( Irish cousins in Belfast) do not want a united Ireland, and want to stay part of the UK. Constant misplaced US support for a bunch of terrorists angers me, normally based on the fact that they have some distant set of relatives who were Irish - they speak from miles away - they've not had to live under constant fear of bombs, snipers, etc. as people in Northern Ireland and England have had to. Mo Mowlam is in a serioulsy difficult position. Any which way she turns she will be criticised.
Clare, England

PIRA is now imposing exile on youths........well done Mo, you REALLY showed them who's boss............
Elise, UK

The IRA cease-fire is just as intact as the cease-fire of the various Loyalist factions. Good decision Mo, but if you feel you must renege sometime then make sure you apply sanctions against all offending groups, not just the IRA.
Brian, Canada

The only policy that this government seems to have is to appease Sinn Fein/IRA at any cost. At the same time, however, I think it's been a bad mistake on Trimbles' part to place so much emphasis on decommissioning. If there are safeguards, which there appear to be, then I think the Unionists should work with what we've got. The IRA will only marginalise itself further once the political process has begun.
Simon, UK

The IRA has led Mo Mowlam & Tony Blair down the aisle with no intention of going through with the marriage. If killing people and importing arms is not a contravention of the cease-fire, then what is? Their only objective has been to obtain the release of their prisoners. Why is it that most people can see this apart from the government?
Mark Leaman, UK

I read all the press about NI - its a topic I have a real interest in and have had for several years. At some point in the near future I hope, one or another side in the conflict is going to have to take a real leap of faith, on one or more of the key blockage points - but until we get there I think Mo is doing ok in a thankless, difficult role - I encourage her to keep it up and try not to be too discouraged at all the carping. They're ain't too many people capable of filling her shoes!
Benjamin Jordan, Singapore

With the report on the news of the youths being threatened in the province could we possibly be looking at a scapegoat situation. It would appear through the reporting in the UK news service that none of the Youths can identify the reasons for their exile. It would appear that the media are stirring this situation into a frenzy and also linking it to the peace process. It has been commented that this type of thing happens on a weekly scale, why at this time, when Mo Mowlem and certain factions involved in the peace process need to establish who are the guys dressed in white are, has this story taken so much prominence. I would say it raises the question that - Are the heart strings of the British public being manipulated for us to feel an unconfirmed sympathy for these youths and therefore view the IRA and associated organisations actions as derogatory to the peace process?
Gordon McCallum, UK

Surely it is time the Government began to treat the various murder gangs of Northern Ireland like the common criminals they truly are. What we are now seeing is the true nature of paramilitary activity in Northern Ireland. The gangs operate as viable businesses founded on intimidation and domination of communities. They are thugs and extortionists. To suggest that they are in some way capable of turning to normal life and taking a part in the democratic process is nonsense. You may as well suggest that the Mafia be given a legitimate role in governing Sicily. You might also suggest that it is fine for the Mafia to kill and brutalise, as long as the victims are Sicilian.
J.F. Munro, Scotland

It is clear that the only "Peace" that the Government is interested in securing is peace on mainland Britain. they will accommodate murder violence intimidation the destruction of property provided it is confined to N. Ireland It is a policy that will inevitably end in catastrophe
James Macaulay, N.Ireland

Living in this part of the world, I am at a loss when Arab nationals ask me why it is the British Government has no qualms sanctioning innocent Iraqi civilians but is reticent when it comes to terrorists on its own doorstep. Mo Mowlam appears to be in a no-win situation but the present Government has allowed itself to be forced into this corner by accepting the word of known killers in the shape of McGuiness and Adams.
Tanya Scott, Dubai, United Arab Emirates

I think Mo Mowlam is right. She is keeping her attention on the big issue. That is to offer the ordinary people an opportunity to develop a normal democratic society in which all sections of the community are represented. The violent factions do not represent the aspirations of most people. Their criminal acts must not be allowed to take precedence over the main project at hand. I'm afraid there will probably be violence for some time to come but that is no reason to give up now.
Andrew Witham, UK

Negotiation is the only way to settle the battle.
Mariko Mitsui, Japan

Apart from maintaining a so-called 'cessation of military operations' the IRA & Sinn Fein have made no concessions whilst the British Government has made all the moves (less troops, checkpoints removed, prisoner releases, police reform, Irish government involvement to name a few). What motivation has the IRA to move now? Mo seems quite happy to let SF have their cake whilst the IRA eat it! The lesson of history is that appeasement never brings true peace yet it seems that Mo's only policy is to appease those who threaten to return to all-out violence if their demands are not met. I voted for the peace agreement but this isn't it.
Sam, Northern Ireland

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