During World War II, a government slogan that warned, "Loose lips sink ships." It was intended as a deterrent to people being too talkative about their loved ones at sea, thereby running the risk of Nazi agents picking up something useful about the shipping convoys.
The slogan, or something like it, could well be applied to the current situation in the North, as D-Day approaches for the setting up of the new executive slated for Monday, Nov. 29.
Loose lips could also sink the peace process.
Various prominent Sinn Fein members have been casting doubt on the party’s commitment to decommissioning, or at least qualifying it in such a way as to provoke Unionist fears that they are being deceived. This plays right into the hands of the anti-agreement offensive mounted by those opposed to the UUP leader David Trimble’s efforts to convince his party to go along with his decision to join Sinn Fein in a power-sharing government.
D-Day for Trimble is Saturday, when he addresses his party’s ruling body. If he fails, then everyone loses, including Sinn Fein.
No doubt both the republicans and the Unionists are deservedly nervous about their respective constituencies. Both are embarking on a road their leaders swore they would never take. Both are consequently vulnerable to attacks from within their own ranks and allegations that they have betrayed their respective causes.
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But both must remember that there is a cause greater than their long-cherished political goals, whether it be the achievement of a united Ireland or that Northern Ireland should remain part of the United Kingdom. And that is the well-being of the people of the Ireland, North and South, who have voted overwhelmingly for the Good Friday peace agreement.
That well-being is undoubtedly better served in the long run by the peaceful pursuit of those different goals. Not only that, but the causes themselves are better served by peaceful engagement with traditional opponents in an effort to persuade rather than coerce them.
No easy task, but one that does not tarnish the cause that it holds dear.
It is to be hoped then that in the coming days words will be used to sow the seeds of unity — unity for peace and progress — and not further division, the likes of which have already cost the Irish people dearly.