The recent Irish-British Downing Street Peace Declaration, coupled with the extravagant American media-hype of Sinn Feins Gerry Adams, has encouraged a revolution of rising peace expectations worldwide and, especially, in the United States. But if such expectations are to be helpful to Ireland, then the majority views of Irish people who actually live in Ireland must be given center-stage.
In particular, it must be borne in mind that most Irish people reject violence and are utterly opposed to its paramilitary and military sponsors. Irish people (91 percent in the most recent poll) believe that the Downing Street Declarationthe peace initiative from the prime ministers of Britain and Ireland that calls for separate votes in the north and the south and for the Irish Republican Army to renounce violenceis a fair basis for immediate peace. An equally impressive majority believes that Sinn Fein and the IRA have had time enough to respond to the opportunities now on offer.
This yearning for peace is not new in Ireland. Christian pacifists have long been its advocates and have contributed significantly to an Irish sea-change in attitudes to violence. Of course, Irish bigots remain shrill and get unmerited publicity; and the institutional church often fails in ecumenical witness. But less publicized is the way in which mainstream lay and clerical leaders have displayed a moral discipline and willingness to work across the denominational divide.