At the reception in White House during the St. Patrick’s Day celebrations on March 13, he put it very simply. It was time for the leaders of all the parties to seize the opportunity that the new era in policing was offering. Of course, he did not single out any particular party. But since all the leading parties, bar one, support the new police service, there can be no doubt as to whom his remarks were directed: Sinn Fein.
In remarks that were almost certainly scripted by his envoy to Northern Ireland, Richard Haass, the president praised the new service and its chief constable, Hugh Orde, who was a guest at the White House, accompanied by two freshly minted young constables. The era of the paramilitaries was over, the president said. That means (it didn’t need to be spelled out) that the time for Sinn Fein to join the new policing body has come.
The party’s president, Gerry Adams, somehow managed arrive late for the event. But no matter. He knows what the message is better than anyone. It is coming not only from the administration, but also from Britain’s prime minister, Tony Blair, and the Taoiseach, Bertie Ahern. The age of the Northern Ireland paramilitaries, including the IRA, has past. Waiting like a reluctant bride trembling on the threshold can extract no more concessions. But refusing to commit has its dangers. Attempts to whittle way at the deal outlined on Tuesday, March 4, could precipitate another crisis of confidence in the whole enterprise.
Adams can arrive late for a date with the president. But he cannot be tardy in delivering the commitments his party was undertaken.