The IRA were a ruthless, uncompromising, dedicated, well armed and well funded organization that was responsible for murdering 1800 politicians, police officers, soldiers and citizens.
While contending that their struggle was legitimate, after 20 odd years, the IRA came to understand that violence and terrorism was failing. It was not advancing their cause, but rather, as people became fed up with the bloodshed, terrorism destroyed the image the IRA as a group of noble nationalists.
Pledging to assist the development of purely political and democratic programs through exclusively peaceful means, the IRA ordered it's militants to dump arms.
By remaining resolute, keeping troops on the streets, implementing emergency measures to help fight the threat, sending in the elite SAS to track down militants, conducting secret talks with the IRA, while improving schooling and job opportunities, Tony Blair was instrumental in the getting the IRA to "formally order an end to the armed campaign" and work through "exclusively peaceful means".
There were many who believed talking to the IRA would not work, yet the peace process eventually succeeded in halting Irish terrorism.
So what lesson from this can be applied of today's terrorist challenges posed by a group of fanatics who recognize no limits, make no demands that can be legitimately addressed, and represent no one but themselves?
When it comes to Islamic inspired terrorists, we cannot engage in discussions with them, we can only defeat them!
One way to defeat them, is to build democracies in the Mid East, such as we have done in Iraq, because, in the words of India's Infosys CEO Nilekani, " only Democracy allows free speech, which breeds creativity. Creativity creates a culture that's popular and inclusive".
But we must be careful to ensure that democracy is not merely the act of "voting". as we have just witnessed in Lebanon. Hamas may have been democratically elected, but Democracy also demands that the leaders be held accountable for creating choice, freedom, alternatives, developing civil societies, institutions, and judiciary systems.