There were two messages coming out of Northern Ireland this week. The first was a message of hope, as Northern Ireland’s First Minister David Trimble and Deputy First Minister Seamus Mallon on tour here launched their appeal for US investment.
The second was essentially about despair — the despair of those who still cling to the gun like children to a security blanket. The Progressive Unionist Party — the political wing of the UVF — announced at the weekend that not only was there was "no hope" of loyalists handing over their guns before October 31st, the deadline for the implementation of a crucial part of the Good Friday Agreement, but that the UVF might not give up any weapons even if the IRA were to decommission theirs, according to their spokesman Billy Hutchinson.
That is not the message that U.S. corporations will want to hear. After all, they have been listening to the reassurances from Trimble and Mallon that Northern Ireland has turned a corner and is now a secure place for them to invest.
Which is it to be? Jobs or guns?
It is doubly ironic that the emphasis on guns should suddenly emerge at the very time that the Nobel committee is apparently looking at the prospect of recognizing the achievement of the Irish peace process through awarding the Nobel Peace prize to one or more of those involved, the foremost of whom, of course, would be SDLP leader John Hume.
There cannot be two, mutually incompatible messages coming from the same place at the same time. Trimble and Mallon, with their campaign for investment, promise a future for both Catholic and Protestant. Billy Hutchinson, with his talk of "No Surrender", suggests that all the people of Northern Ireland have to look forward to is not peace but the past.
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As Trimble and Mallon said last week in New York: for working class Catholics and Protestants the peace dividend is a job. Those who have yet to learn that lesson show that they have invested too much in the past to be able to grasp the future.