BELFAST (CWNews.com) - A majority of pro-republican Catholics and pro-unionist Protestants in Northern Ireland plan to vote in favor of an historic peace agreement that would try to end decades of violence in elections in May, according to polls published on Thursday.

      The first opinion polls after the agreement was reached during multi-party peace talks on Good Friday show that 73 percent of voters in Northern Ireland and 61 percent in the Irish Republic plan to vote "yes" on May 22. The survey commissioned by the Irish Times of Dublin also said 56 percent of people in Northern Ireland saw the agreement as having a reasonable chance of bringing a lasting peace.

      David Trimble of the Ulster Unionist Party, the largest pro-British party in the province, said he planned to campaign for approval of the plan despite efforts by extremists on both sides to scuttle the accord. Trimble said a decision by the Orange Order, a Protestant traditionalist group, not to support the deal for now did not necessarily represent a blow to hopes for its approval in the referendum. "This is not a rejection," he said on Wednesday after the Orange Order movement asked for clarification of the accord, especially on plans to release guerrilla prisoners early and reform the overwhelmingly Protestant police force.

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April 17-19, 1998 volume 9, no. 75         DAILY CATHOLIC