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Editorial Cooperation North

February 16, 2011

By Staff Reporter

For years, Northern Ireland has been a byword for division, an example of how ancient quarrels can keep neighbors apart, of how the past can cripple the future.

But next week we will get a chance to see another, newer aspect of a place and its problems that some had written off long ago as insoluble.

A delegation from the recently created Northern Ireland assembly is heading for the U.S. to begin a three-week, 11-city tour with the aim of encouraging corporate America to invest in the Northern economy.

First Minister David Trimble and his deputy, Seamus Mallon, will lead the tour. Trimble is an Ulster Unionist, and Mallon, deputy leader of the Social and Democratic Labor Party, an Irish nationalist. The fact that they can join forces in promoting Northern Ireland is a remarkable development, given its history. For decades, politics was marked by a bitter acrimony, where the very idea of power-sharing between Protestants and Catholics had been dismissed into the wilderness. But without that political cooperation, economic initiatives such as the one now being undertaken would not be feasible. The fact that it has been achieved in spite of all the obstacles put in its path by history and political expediency — which is often the reality hiding behind the invocations of history — is indeed something to be celebrated.

We are just at the beginning, of course. There are many problems that remain to be resolved. Trimble and Mallon are in the middle of trying to sort out one of the thorniest — that of decommissioning, a problem which could force them to curtail some of their planned activities here.

But whatever the issue, both men and their supporters in the assembly, and all those who have signed up to the Good Friday Agreement, know that the message they have to deliver from New York to Chicago, from Boston to Denver, from Philadelphia to Atlanta, from Dallas to Minneapolis, is one of cooperation and enterprise. Both can only be guaranteed when the energy of the politicians and the people is harnessed toward working for a shared future, one that the divisions of the past will not be allowed to compromise.

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