The Irish and British cabinets today approved a ground-breaking agreement aimed at pacifying Northern Ireland after 16 years of conflict.
The accord gives the Republic of Ireland, overwhelmingly Roman Catholic, a consultative role in running Northern Ireland, a predominantly Protestant province of the United Kingdom.
Irish and British newspapers said the agreement will be signed Friday by Prime Ministers Margaret Thatcher of Britain and Garret FitzGerald of Ireland at a summit in Britain, Ireland or Northern Ireland.
After a five-hour meeting of the Irish Cabinet today, the Dublin government issued a brief statement saying, "The government has considered the Anglo-Irish agreement and approved it." It did not elaborate.
Final Draft Discussed
In London, the British Cabinet also met today to discuss the final draft of the accord. The British refused to say formally whether it was approved, but an official close to the negotiations, speaking on condition of anonymity, said it had been endorsed. The two major British television networks and national news agency also reported that the deal has been concluded.
British officials cited unspecified security reasons for not commenting publicly.
Tempers heated up in Northern Ireland and in the British House of Commons with the apparent approach of the signing. Leaders of the Protestant majority vowed to resist the agreement, and two right-wing lawmakers accused Thatcher of betraying the province. Thatcher refused to say whether the agreement has been approved or whether the summit will take place.
British leaders have been at pains to reassure the Protestants that British sovereignty will be unchanged.
The agreement will reportedly repeal the ban on flying the Irish flag in Northern Ireland, encourage Irish language studies, promote Irish sports and permit streets to be named after Irish historical figures.
Curbing the IRA
It reportedly includes a promise of greater cooperation between the Irish and British governments in curbing the activities of the mainly Catholic Irish Republican Army, which is fighting to drive the British from Northern Ireland.
In Northern Ireland itself, a police reservist was shot and seriously wounded while driving to work in County Tyrone, near the frontier with Ireland, police said. No claim of responsibility was made, but police said they assume that it was the work of anti-British gunmen.
In the House of Commons, lawmaker Harold McCusker brandished a copy of the Irish Press and said it is "deplorable that members of this house, who have been systematically and deliberately kept in the dark about the outcome of these talks, should learn of their conclusions from a paper printed in Dublin."