Hell freezes over in Northern Ireland
Ian Paisley and Gerry Adams. Credit: Reuters
Note that the above picture has not been retouched in any way, this meeting just took place in Northern Ireland. The man on the left is Ian Paisley, leader of the Protestant DUP. The man on the right is Gerry Adams, leader of the mostly Catholic Sinn Fein of Northern Ireland. The Sinn Fein is the political wing of the IRA, the Irish Republican Army. These two men just agreed to a historic power sharing deal in Northern Ireland. OK, they did refuse to shake hands, but this is still an amazing photograph. These two men have been sworn blood enemies for decades.
In other words, this is like a photo of George Bush and Osama Bin Laden sitting down at a table together. Twenty years ago if a person was so foolish as to suggest that negotiations with the notorious IRA might be a way to stop their terrorism and bring peace to Northern Ireland, they risked laughter if not physical attack from many Britons. The IRA was the original terrorist organization, the people who invented the modern car bomb attack. The idea that the IRA could be negotiated with was scoffed at by all and sundry!
There are two points I would like to make here. The first is that this meeting and agreement is a very good thing. The situation in Northern Ireland has been improving slowly but steadily since all parties sat down and began negotiations in the early nineties. There have been fits and starts, but one of the world’s most intractable conflicts has reached a peaceful settlement. Who would have guessed?
Well, me for one. Which is the second point, this picture is proof that the mantra “we can’t negotiate with terrorists” is just that, a mantra. Or by the more proper term, propaganda. When anyone tells you that “we can’t negotiate with terrorists,” show them this picture. If one of the most long running religious conflicts on the planet can be solved with negotiation, obviously negotiation should always be an option. When people refuse to talk to their enemies, they are choosing perpetual war. Is that what people really want?
Am I not destroying my enemies when I make friends of them?
(The above image is claimed as Fair Use under US copyright law. It is not being used for profit, it is central for illustrating the post, and it is an historically important image.)