Peace In Northern Ireland?

The violent struggle between the Protestant majority and the Catholic minority in Northern Ireland may be coming to an end. After 25 years of terrorism, 3,225 deaths, and an estimated $150 billion spent publicly and privately to fight terrorism, British and Irish leaders on Dec. 15 released a painstakingly worded declaration of peace. The deal sets in motion a process that's likely to lead to Northern Ireland deciding whether to remain part of Britain or join the Irish Republic.

If all goes well, both sides should see economic gains. Without the huge political risk that has dragged down Northern Ireland's economy, investment could begin flowing, attracted by a low inflation rate, low wages, and an educated work force--much as it has in the Irish Republic, a leading location for high-technology and health-care companies looking for a European toehold.

Despite the optimism, there's still much tension, as Britain anxiously awaits the responses of the Irish Republican Army and Protestant loyalist terrorists in Ulster. Says an assistant to British Prime Minister John Major: "One can imagine all sorts of people might resort to violence to wreck the process."

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