11 MARCH 1972, Page 3


Violence is a political disease which, like corruption, is more tolerated by the body politic the more there is of it. Violence breeds violence rather than resistance to violence. Each act of outrage outrages less and numbs more. We need continually to remind ourselves that the Irish mess is getting bloodier and bloodier. Because we become increasingly immune to horror, through the repetition of the horrific, it is easy and comfortable to push to the back of our minds, where it no longer disturbs us, the knowledge that government as we are accustomed to enjoy it has broken down in Northern Ireland. Over considerable areas anarchy and lawlessness prevails; in the cities of Belfast and Londonderry and to a lesser extent elsewhere, a generation of children is already debauched by violence; the British Army no longer supports the civil power but to a considerable extent constitutes the only power; there is no government in the province which enjoys sufficient consent to prevent the harbouring and succouring of those who murder in the name of revolution; and, so far, Her Majesty's Government of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland has taken no action which offers the hope of peace and which demonstrates to the world its acceptance of responsibility.

There is reason to hope that the British Government is at last taking the final difficult steps towards assuming such responsibility and exercising direct power. The difficulties in its way are great, but there is no cause to doubt that Mr Heath and his colleagues will lack the courage and determination to act, once they have made up their minds to do so. It must surely be obvious to all but those purblinded by doctrinal or racial prejudice that the present condition of Northern Ireland is such that peace cannot be restored to the Province either by a Stormont regime or by any farfetched scheme of unification with the Irish Republic. It is equally obvious that the British army for the time being, must remain. The logic of the situation and the logic of events alike compels the answer: there is no choice but direct rule in one form or another, and the least unequivocal form the better. We therefore repeat: Stormont must go.

The British Government must share with the Irish Government the knowledge that in all of Britain and all of Ireland the growing acceptance of violence threatens the peaceful way of life which the great majority of people wish to enjoy. The advocacy of violence is becoming commonplace, and the practice of it daily more frequent. Both Governments must employ no more force -but no less — than is necessary to afford the peaceable majority protection against the violent fanatics of right and left. Internment — in the south as in the north — should exist, but be limited in time and due process of law be sustained. The IRA must be rooted out of the south as out of the north. Only through the co-operation of London and Dublin will this be achieved. And only through the elimination of Stormont will the ground in Northern Ireland be made such that the IRA can no more strike its roots there and the seeds of violence no more be nourished and protected.