SUNDAY WILL be the second anniversary of the signing of Anglo-Irish accords designed to promote peaceful resolution of conflict in Ulster. Last Sunday, there was gruesome evidence that the violence continues. A huge bomb, which the provisional wing of the Irish Republican Army admits to having planted, was detonated in the small town of Enniskillen in the midst of a crowd gathered to honor soldiers killed in both world wars. The explosion killed 11 people and wounded more than 60 others, including more than a dozen children between 2 and 15 years old. It was the worst single act of violence in the province in five years.
Expressions of shock and fury have come from both sides of the border and from Britain. The bombing may signal a vicious new turn to the fighting, but it is just as reasonable to view it as a desperate retaliation by an IRA that has sustained a number of serious setbacks in recent weeks. The killers, however, may not have counted on the response of law enforcement officials in Ulster and in the republic, who are prepared to work together. The treaty has provided a framework for concerted effort in outrageous cases like this.
Under the terms of the accord a permanent working group with both British and Irish representatives has been set up to deal with political, legal and security matters and to encourage cross-border cooperation. Progress has been made in two areas that have caused dissension in the past. Although courts in the Irish republic have authorized extradition of those charged with terrorism in the north, the British have urged the Irish parliament to ratify an international treaty that strictly limits the political offense exception often invoked to block extradition. The Irish, in turn, object strongly to the so-called Diplock courts where a single judge acting without a jury hears cases involving terrorist violence. There were 596 such trials last year, on charges ranging from street fights to murder. There is a good chance that compromises will be agreed to in these areas soon.
If those working to solve the centuries-old conflict in Northern Ireland had any doubt that their work is imperative, those doubts were surely dispelled in Enniskillen on Sunday. The accords are working, and the terrorists don't want a peaceful solution. Everyone else does. Only continued work toward the goals of the accords will bring it about.