International Papers

Hope for Northern Ireland

“The Future Starts Here” was the Irish Independent’s front-page headline Monday as papers on both sides of the Irish Sea were full of cautious optimism about the future of Northern Ireland. David Trimble, the province’s designated first minister in a devolved government, was warmly praised in both Britain and the Irish Republic for having won the agreement Saturday of 58 percent of his Ulster Unionist Party to share power with republican Sinn Fein, its traditional enemy. The Irish Times, another Dublin newspaper, said in an editorial headlined “The courage of Mr Trimble” that “[t]he Belfast Agreement may yet resonate in the collective memory of our children as a great imaginative departure and a creative compromise between traditionally antagonistic forces.” The Irish Times went on, “Nationalists have swallowed the bitter truth that there will be no united Ireland in the foreseeable future and if it comes, it will only happen with the consent of a majority in Northern Ireland. Unionists have had to accept, in the new cross-Border structures, the legitimate aspirations of nationalists to build a closer relationship with the Republic. The Government of Ireland Act of 1920 is to be repealed and the people of this State have agreed to relinquish the territorial claim to unity. A fundamental change in those mind-sets that froze into place at the turn of the century is under way.” The Irish News, a Roman Catholic paper based in Belfast, said in an editorial, “It was, by any standards, a testing weekend for Unionists and nationalists, and many difficulties still lie ahead, but the political process and a better future remain on course.”

In Britain Monday, the Independent of London praised the “heroism” of Trimble and the “superhuman patience” of former U.S. Sen. George Mitchell, who brokered the troubled Good Friday agreement. The Guardian said that, starting Monday, an historic step would be taken every day this week, culminating Thursday in self-government for Ulster. “This should be a great week for Northern Ireland–and for making that possible David Trimble and his party should be congratulated,” it concluded. The Times of London said that the peace process had reached “first base” but that “whether it advances further now rests exclusively with Sinn Fein and the IRA.” The Daily Telegraph remained the most skeptical of the British papers. In an editorial headlined “Trimble’s still in trouble,” it doubted if the IRA would surrender its weapons before next May as promised (if the IRA doesn’t, Trimble has said that he will resign as first minister and thus destroy the power-sharing executive). “[I]t is almost impossible to see what benefit Sinn Fein/IRA would gain from junking the threat of violence,” it said. “[A]fter all, terror has helped to win them office in part of the United Kingdom.”

On the eve of the World Trade Organization conference in Seattle, papers around the world were apprehensive about its outcome. In London, the Financial Times said, “Failure, or a feeble political fudge, would leave the global trade system dangerously adrift.” Bill Clinton, perhaps alone, has the skills needed to provide success, it said. “His presence [in Seattle], and his efforts to clinch China’s WTO entry, suggest he has a strong personal commitment to the global trade system,” the FT said in an editorial. “This week, he has an exceptional opportunity to prove it–and to bequeath a lasting legacy.” The Times of London, in an editorial headed “Chance in a Millennium,” said the thousands of people protesting in Seattle against globalization will “do serious harm if they give the negotiators inside excuses to shirk the tough decisions.” The paper said, “The real fear of the protestors is not that the trade talks will fail but that they will succeed, for protectionism is a powerful force behind which shelter not only state monopolies, inefficient industries and cossetted farmers but backward-looking and xenophobic ideologies.”

Leading Die Welt of Germany Monday was a report that a research team in Cambridge, England, has decoded the complete genetic makeup of a human chromosome. Le Monde of Paris, which also reported the development on its front page, said the magazine Nature is due to publish the composition of Chromosome 22 this Thursday, marking the first time that the hugely complex chemical structure of a complete human chromosome has been revealed. “The genetic code in the chromosome is thought to contain vital information on several hereditary conditions, including schizophrenia and deafness,” the Sunday Telegraph of London said. It added, “The 22nd chromosome is also a key immune system regulator.”

Commenting on this weekend’s general election defeat in New Zealand of National Party Prime Minister Jenny Shipley by Labor Party leader Helen Clark, the Sydney Morning Herald of Australia noted Monday that “the first country to give women the vote, in 1893, has ended the century with an election involving two women leading the major parties and with its first elected female prime minister.” Nevertheless, the paper called Clark’s victory speech “cautious and dour” and lacking in vision.

Sunday’s Ha’aretz of Israel reported that members of New Zealand’s indigenous Maori community are claiming descent from the 10 lost tribes of Israel. The paper said a first group of several dozens Maoris is expected in Israel soon “in order to renew their ties with the Jewish people. … The Maoris believe they are descendants of the tribe of Ephraim, who made their way to the South Pacific islands 3,000 years ago and see a certain similarity between their religion and Judaism.”

In Japan, Asahi Shimbun reported Sunday that one of the three workers responsible for the country’s worst ever nuclear accident, which took place this Sept. 30, has been in critical condition since his heart temporarily stopped beating last Saturday. Hisashi Ouchi, 35, was exposed to huge amounts of radiation when he and two colleagues at the Tokaimura uranium processing plant illegally mixed a large quantity of uranium solution in a stainless steel container. The mixture triggered a nuclear chain reaction at the plant. According to doctors quoted by Asahi Shimbun, Ouchi lost a great deal of blood from his intestines, and his skin has been failing to reproduce itself.

On Monday the same paper reported the death at age 97 of Elizabeth Gray Vining, an American teacher from Philadelphia who served as Emperor Akihito’s tutor for four years from 1946 while he was still crown prince of Japan. “Besides teaching English to the future emperor, Vining also passed on democratic ideals, such as freedom and respect for the individual,” the paper said. As a Quaker, she also held strong pacifist convictions, and she was the only foreigner invited to the wedding of the crown prince to Michiko Shoda in April 1959.