Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Gerry Adams

"Euskal Herrian, 2006ko martxoam"

Reminds one of the whole IRA cease-fire stuff...
Light at the end of the tunnel?..
Good luck to all the negotiators...
I might add a little story or two to my parsimonious legend to the digitally manipulated ETA's logo. I'll dive again into my diplomemories, if the Right Honourable Reader has nothing against it.
Two decades ago, in the capital of the Kingdom of Great Britain, I was given the brief to follow and report from time to time about "Northern Ireland" (as was customary at the time to keyword it for our readers' attention. Neither "IRA", nor "terrorism in Northern Ireland", nor (God forbid!) "Irish Question"...). I was quite young then but sufficiently wise to keep my mouth shut and my thoughts for myself for more than a year about that issue. In the meantime I read a lot (history and left-wing revolutionary politics are always the keys to understand modern self-determination struggles in Europe), I listened a lot (including the overtly pro-United Ireland "Fringe Meetings" at Party Conferences of Neil Kinnock's Labour ) and I started to probe a willing expert or two. Time had perhaps come to make up my own mind about what could be done, in my humble views at least.
And that takes me to my little story, short and with a puzzling morale. The scene takes place at another Party Conference, this time the Tories (which were in power at the time), in one of those after-Plenary drinks-parties which were held in large rooms of the seaside hotel which doubled as HQ to the meeting. Someone introduce me to a quite charming and well-rated Member of Parliament. We exchanged cards after a while, when empathy had become obvious. After answering his question about what dossiers was I following at the Embassy, the good-mannered MP, who had been involved in "Irish" issues for quite a long time, asked me what in my view could be done to get the IRA black-cloud out of British political skies. With all my youthful naivete, believing in my right to state the obvious, I said: "I guess.. you'll have to discuss with Sean Feinn". The MP's reaction was for me quite a shock ( I still remember it, as in slow-motion film). He just turned his back on me and went away.
And the point is? - the Right Honourable Reader might ask. Well, it was obvious for a third party observer that the British government would have at some point to consider the unsavoury move of dialoguing with the political wing of an armed/paramilitary/terrorist group if it wanted to make some real progress. But inside the political decision-making machine that move was still a tabu. (Years later, mostly with Blair but also with Major before him, that was of course the path to follow).
Am I saying that talking with Batasuna or the coming to power (in Madrid) of a young socialist PM has analogies with what happened in the British Isles? I'm sorry but I have to decline to comment on that. I know nothing about ETA or the Basques, and I will go on keeping my mouth shut.
Just one final little story, heard from the mouth of the nowadays most influentiall compatriot of mine in Brussels. That gentleman, with whom I have spent years in the same classroom of an old-fashioned Liceu, was very busy at some point of his foreign affairs-related career trying to bring close together the political stands of the two Angolan warring factions. He told me at the time something I keep remembering: "The fact that the International Community has a pretty good idea of what needs to be done is not enough. Even if the IC has a number of coercive means up its sleeves the crucial thing remains to be obtained: that the parties of the conflict themselves believe that the time for serious dialogue has come. We cannot impose peace if they're not ready in themselves for it."
My argument therefore is something like this: the path to overcome a conflict might be obvious for some time to the outside world but unless it becomes obvious too for the belligerent parties at a deeper interiorized level that "solution" is perhaps better kept silent. Besides, no one likes when someone turns his back on you...

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