“If you loved me, you would.”
“If you loved me, you wouldn’t ask”.
Such a conversation would seem to sum up the relationship between the IRA and the DUP, the main unionist party in Northern Ireland.
Today’s statement by the IRA that it was to “cease all activities” (no suggestion that it would disband) will not answer the fundamental question about trust.
The DUP believe that if the IRA is committed wholly and exclusively to peace, then it should have no problem in revealing its weapons dumps.
The IRA believe that if the DUP is committed to the peace process, then it should work on the basis of trust, and not ask for what the IRA is not prepared to give.
The revelation of arms dumps is not the issue. No one knows how many weapons the IRA had in the first place and how many caches of arms there might be. Even if the IRA revealed ever gun, every bullet, every ounce of explosive, who is to say they would not rearm if the political process did not achieve their aims? The DUP must be alive to that reality. The arms in themselves are not crucial, what is crucial to various people for differing reasons is the willingness to be open.
The DUP would be delighted to have the photographs to be able to crow that Paisley was the man who stopped the IRA. The IRA will refuse to allow photographs for as long as they think this would be a surrender to unionist triumphalism.
The ordinary person caught in the middle will welcome the suggestion that another step towards normal politics has been taken, and I suspect, would be quite pleased if the IRA did go public with its disarmament – after all, the only use guns have is for killing people.
Today could be a watershed – if the mind games can be resolved; if the “if you” questions can be answered to the satisfaction of both sides. But if the “if you” questions had not existed in the first place, so much pain and suffering and misery might have been avoided.
Where there is trust, no weapons are needed; disarmament itself will achieve nothing unless the need to ask questions is gone.