Recent events in Northern Ireland suggest that the peace process established by the ratification of the Good Friday agreement in 1998 could soon collapse. In response to the passing of a deadline for IRA disarmament at the end of last month, David Trimble, leader of the Ulster Unionist Party (UUP), has signed an undated resignation that he is ready to tender this week. Meanwhile, the British Parliament is ready to disband the new Northern Ireland government by Friday if proof of IRA disarmament is not forthcoming. To make matters worse, on Sunday a splinter group of the IRA, the "Continuity IRA," exploded a car bomb in County Fermanagh. No one was hurt, but the explosion underscored the fragility of the peace process and the intransigence of the most radical elements. Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams has repeated the IRA commitment to an eventual decommissioning of weapons, but continues to reject the timetable set by Unionist leaders. Unionists respond that in the two years since the Good Friday Agreement no substantial weapons hand-over has occurred. If the British Parliament does disband the new government, it would mean a return to British "direct rule" and a possibly fatal setback for the current quest for peace in Northern Ireland.
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