Shortly after the September 11 attacks in this column I suggested that the war on terrorism launched by George W. Bush should include the IRA and ETA. At the time, I believed, that the new “world-order” was only targetting Bin Laden. I was wrong. The historic disarmament steps which have been taken this week by the IRA owe much to the September 11 attacks. The United States, has for many years, been one of the chief fundraising areas for so-called Irish republican groups. But the horrific attacks on the World Trade Centre and the Pentagon has not only led to a new “world-order against terrorism” it has also broadcast a clear message to groups across the world that terrorism in any form will not be tolerated. The writing was on the wall when Gerry Adams during a Sinn Fein conference in Dublin condemned the attacks just days afterwards. He since followed up his earlier statement calling on the IRA to disarm. But while in Northern Ireland the time for negotiations has started, in Spain the fight against ETA continues. Even though there has not been a significant breakthrough like the one seen in Northern Ireland the Spanish police helped by their French counterparts have made a series of important arrests of high-ranking ETA members who were helping mastermind the bombing campaign on the mainland. Is there a link?

Perhaps, we will never know but the war on terrorism is being fought on all fronts and judging by the statement from the IRA this week a number of notable victories are being achieved and for this I would like to congratulate all involved.

Jason Moore

U-Turn on cannabis

David Blunkett is certainly an innovative Home Secretary. Following the novelty of a new crime with retrospective effect (for creating anthrax hoaxes) which he introduced at the end of last week, he has now executed one of the biggest government Uturns in recent political history by announcing the lowering of the classification of cannabis from a category B to a category C drug.

Only two years ago a major review of drug laws which recommended just such a change was rejected by the then Home Secretary, Jack Straw. Although Mr Blunkett insisted that he was not “decriminalising” cannabis, the change will mean that people found in possession of the drug cannot be arrested and that the maximum sentence for possession will be cut from five to two years; the maximum penalty for dealing will drop from 14 to five years imprisonment.

Mr Blunkett's proposed change has to be approved by the Advisory Committee on the Misuse of Drugs before it becomes law. This should not be a problem, however, since the Committee recommended in 1980 that the change should take place! The police are also generally in favour of a reform which recognises current public attitudes and behaviour and which will free resources to concentrate on hard drugs such as heroin and cocaine.

There has been a wide welcome for the Home Secretary's move except from the Conservative Party whose shadow Home Secretary, Oliver Letwin, could not manage to react with anything more decisive than that the issue “would, no doubt, be discussed in the Party's current detailed policy review”.

No wonder Ann Widdecombe, the former shadow Home Secretary was able to hog the headlines with her outright opposition.

Monitor

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