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Businessweek Archives

How Development Gave Peace A Chance

International -- Editorials (int'l edition)


On May 22 the people of Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland will vote on the Apr. 9 peace deal. Approval is likely, but it is still too early to say if lasting peace is in the cards. Militiamen may try to bomb the deal to death, and the political parties may not be able to cooperate.

Still, it is no exaggeration to say that the embattled region has its best shot at a lasting settlement in decades. Credit for this achievement should go to government and private efforts to develop the region's industrial base. Subsidies are usually not a good thing, but in this case heavy government spending has helped maintain jobs and attract new investment. These subsidies should continue even in the face of budget cutting across Europe. Generous investment in education has produced a talented workforce attractive to multinationals. Governments should insure that tax and other policies don't discourage continued private investment.

It is hard to say whether there are lessons here for solving other conflicts, such as those in Corsica, Spanish Basque country, and the Middle East. Northern Ireland is unique among conflict zones in that it is relatively rich. With the European Union reducing the significance of national borders there just isn't that much for unionists and nationalists to fight over anymore. In any case, the diminished tensions in Northern Ireland are a hopeful sign that investment and prosperity at least provide a base for political stability.

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