The big news today was from Northern Ireland, where the Irish Republican Army announced it was abandoning its “armed struggle” to end British rule, and called on its members to scrap their weapons.Specifically, the IRA issued an order to “dump arms.” Nicholas Watt explained the symbolism of that wording in the Guardian:
Eamon de Valera, the father of modern day Irish republicanism, would probably allow himself a wry smile. More than 80 years after the Irish civil war, the IRA today echoed his famous declaration of 1923 when it ordered all units “to dump arms”.With his impeccable republican lineage, Gerry Adams will have known the huge symbolic importance of using the exact words of the hardliners who refused to accept the partition of Ireland in 1921.
De Valera, of course, ultimately won power for his Fianna Fail Party through the ballot box. And that’s what Adams is predicting for his own Sinn Fein, which could gain partial power through coalition governments in both Dublin and Belfast within the very near future.Whether or not that happens, it will be very difficult for the IRA to renege on this announcement or turn back to violence in the immediate future, especially if it redeems its pledge to allow independent verification of its disarmament. And that’s what makes this moment even more significant than the 1998 Good Friday Accord that ended The Troubles.For most of my adult lifetime, the violence in Northern Ireland ranked with the Cold War and the Israeli-Palestinian impasse as interminable battles that would apparently extend infinitely into the future. If today’s news from Ireland doesn’t prove illusory, then we’re two-thirds of the way towards the end of these endless struggles.