From Eta to the IRA, making peace means talking to the enemy


In Belfast three weeks ago we celebrated the 20th anniversary of the Good Friday agreement, which ended political violence in Northern Ireland for good. Today in the small town of Cambo-les-Bains, in the Basque part of France, some of us who were involved in Northern Ireland will participate in an international gathering to mark the permanent end of Eta.

Eta issued a statement this week wrapping up the organisation for good after more than 40 years of violence, in which hundreds of lives were lost and thousands of people were injured.

It is hard to remember now just how bloody the terrorist campaigns were in Northern Ireland and in the Basque country – with news of fresh deaths and injury every week and sometimes every day.

Eta’s statement is something to celebrate. It marks the end of the last violent conflict in Europe, and the last armed group. But it should also be an occasion to draw lessons.