[IWAR] NI peace accord likely

From: Mixmaster (mixmasterat_private)
Date: Sat May 23 1998 - 00:41:55 PDT

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    >From CNN:
    May 22, 1998 Web posted at: 10:24 p.m. EDT (0224 GMT)
    BELFAST, Northern Ireland (CNN) -- An exit poll indicates
    that a large majority of voters on both sides of the Irish
    border have voted to support a peace agreement that would
    end 30 years of bloodshed between Protestants and Catholics.
    The results of the poll, which was commissioned by Radio
    Television Eire (RTE) in Dublin, found that 73 percent of
    the voters in Northern Ireland and 96 percent in the Irish
    Republic voted "Yes" on the referendum.
    Of particular interest was the vote among Northern Ireland
    Protestants. The exit poll shows they favored the peace
    agreement by a narrow 51-49 margin. Catholic voters in
    Northern Ireland were almost unanimous in their support of
    the agreement, with 99 percent in favor.
    The exit poll, the first ever in Ireland, was based on
    interviews conducted with more than 1,750 people in Northern
    Ireland at 90 polling stations in all 18 constituencies, and
    more than 2,000 people at 150 polling stations in all 41
    constituencies in the Irish Republic.
    The official results of Friday's voting will not be known
    until Saturday afternoon, when the votes have been tallied
    at a central counting center in Balmoral, south Belfast.
    Big turnout
    More than 70 percent of the nearly 4 million eligible voters
    -- 1.2 million in the north and 2.8 million in the south --
    turned out Friday to vote on the peace agreement hammered
    out by eight parties and the British and Irish governments.
    The agreement would create a government in Northern Ireland
    that would balance Protestant and Catholic rights and
    Opinion polls leading up to the first all-Ireland vote in 80
    years indicated an overwhelming "Yes" vote in the south and
    broad support in the north. But it also showed Protestants,
    who make up 55 percent of the population in the north, were
    divided over whether to support the agreement.
    "I voted 'Yes' and did it for my children," said Linda
    McShane, 37, after casting her ballot in Catholic west
    Belfast. "'Yes' is everything for the future, and there is
    only more death and destruction with a 'No' vote."
    In south Belfast, Protestant mother Lois McDonald said she
    had backed the accord.
    "I voted 'Yes' because I think we have had enough," she told
    Reuters. "I think everybody has said 'No' for too long. It's
    time to say 'Yes.'"
    But in Saintfield, a village 12 miles south of Belfast,
    Protestant Billy McSorley, 25, said he opposed the deal. "I
    voted 'No' because I think we are on the road to a united
    Ireland, which we don't want," he said.
    Territorial claim also decided
    Politicians have warned that anything less than a strong
    endorsement from the north could wreck the chances of the
    peace agreement working properly.
    But Protestant opponents, led by the Rev. Ian Paisley,
    campaigned for a "No" majority in the Protestant community,
    thus rendering the agreement, even if it passed overall,
    "If a majority of the majority opposes this so-called
    agreement, it can never be made to work," Paisley said.
    Although passage of the referendum requires only a simple
    majority, David Trimble, leader of the main Protestant
    party, the Ulster Unionists, said an overwhelming "Yes" vote
    would augur well for the success of the agreement.
    The referendum was not the only issue being decided Friday.
    Voters in the Irish Republic also voted on an extraordinary
    gesture to the north's pro-British Protestants: a
    constitutional amendment dropping the Republic's territorial
    claim on the six counties of Northern Ireland.
    "It is their opportunity to influence events," said Irish
    Prime Minister Bertie Ahern. "It is an appointment that the
    Irish people have with history."
    A legacy of death, destruction
    If the agreement is approved, Northern Ireland would vote
    again June 25 to elect 108 members of a new Assembly.
    Unlike the Protestant-dominated legislature that ran
    Northern Ireland for a half-century until 1972, this one
    would require consent on any major decisions from both
    pro-British Protestant unionists and Catholic nationalists.
    The Northern Ireland government also would be required to
    cooperate with the Irish Republic's government on such
    policies as agriculture, waterways and tourism.
    The peace agreement is designed to bridge the divisions of
    religion and nationality that have fueled three decades of
    violence, leaving 3,400 dead, 40,000 injured and yearly
    property damage in the tens of millions of dollars.
    The negotiating parties, under the chairmanship of former
    U.S. Sen. George Mitchell, tried to design a structure that
    accepts the legitimacy of conflicting national allegiances
    while forcing the two sides to work together on the
    practical affairs of government.
    For the Irish Republican Army and its allied Sinn Fein
    party, agreement meant giving up any immediate hope of a
    united Ireland. Pro-British unionists, meanwhile, had to
    abandon their dream of returning to simple majority rule.
    'Giving ourselves better odds'
    Many voters balked at abandoning those cherished goals.
    "For 30 years, nationalist people were crucified," said Ann
    Davey, who registered "a very resounding no" vote in the
    Catholic Falls area of Belfast.
    "We are not going to get a united Ireland, so I see nothing
    constructive coming out of this," she said.
    But Protestant Ross Murray -- who at 30 is as old as the
    "troubles" -- voted in favor of the agreement, "for my three
    "This is the only chance for peace we have at the minute,"
    he said. "Sure, life's a gamble. But this way, we are maybe
    giving ourselves better odds."
    Correspondent Christiane Amanpour, The Associated Press and
    Reuters contributed to this report.

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