Confidence-building or -sapping..?

THE IRA has admitted that it killed a schoolgirl in Derry more than 30 years ago. At the time, the IRA blamed the British Army, and killed a soldier in retaliation.Unionists have reacted with scepticism, perhaps seeing it as a cynical move by republicans to demonstrate – without conceding anything – to the two governments that they are ‘moving on’ before the next round of talks.

Unionists tend to see such moves as minimalistic, not addressing their concerns. But then it isn’t unionism that republicanism has to impress, and the cumulative effect of further moves may well – once again – force Blair and Ahern to adopt a softer line.

Given that this admission addresses the concern of a victim first, it might be interesting to see if a pattern develops. There have been moves to appoint a forensic expert to locate the remains of the Disappeared, so perhaps that is something to keep an eye on.

As there is a post-negotiation period where the IRA is expected to demonstrate its democratic bona fides, might we expect a drip feed of further moves? A decommissioning move must surely be on the cards, and while these confidence-building measures may curry favour with the governments, how will unionism react? Surely the DUP cannot remain outside looking in again? What direction will Empey take the UUP in after he is elected UUP leader?

All these and other questions to be answered in the next episode of Peace Processing, Episide 847.