Ed Jacobs reports on the unified condemnation and disgust seen across Northern Ireland's political divides over the murderous actions of dissident republicans
In Northern Ireland and elsewhere, the sight of masked dissident republicans, giving statements to TV cameras on Monday will have sent shivers down backs, provoking memories of what were euphemistically dubbed “the troubles”.
Following the murder of the Catholic police officer, Ronan Kerr, a spokesperson for the Real IRA used the anniversary of the 1916 Easter Rising to warn that police officers would continue to be targeted “regardless of their religion, cultural background or motivation“. And with the Queen due to visit Ireland next month, the spokesperson continued by declaring that:
“The Queen of England is wanted for war crimes in Ireland and not wanted on Irish soil.”
The statement, coming less than two weeks until elections to Stormont, follow a weekend of security alerts which will cause many to worry that dissidents are seeking every opportunity to undermine the democratic process and derail what first minister, Peter Robinson last month predicted would be the first “every day” election in Northern Ireland.
On Good Friday, the Police Service of Northern Ireland issued a statement warning members of the public to remain vigilant, explaining:
“Dissident terrorist groups are continuing to identify officers and target them with the single objective of killing them. And, in so doing, their reckless actions will also put the lives of our wider communities at risk.”
Saturday night saw security services discover three caches of weapons and bomb making equipment, whilst on Monday the Mirror reported that MI5 have warned of an attack on the UK mainland by dissident republicans to coincide with the royal wedding on Friday.
Conscious of the fear recent events are likely to cause, despite the lack of any widespread support for the dissidents’ activities, political leaders across the sectarian divide sought to give a simple, united message that violence would not be tolerated. Of particular significance were the strong statements coming from leaders of the republican movement.
For Sinn Fein, deputy first minister, Martin McGuinness, declared in no uncertain terms:
“People should be under no illusion, the small factions currently engaging in armed actions are not the IRA and they are not advancing national and democratic objectives by their activities.
“Irish people are united in support of the Good Friday, St Andrews and Hillsborough Agreements, attempting to overturn the will of the people is not only futile it is stupid and selfish.”
Following the death of constable Kerr, his mother told the media that she did not want her son’s death to be in vain.
As Northern Ireland rapidly approaches elections on May 5th, dissidents will become increasingly desperate to mount a so called “spectacular” attack to derail the peace process. As they do so, politicians of all sides will have to continue to make clear, with one voice that as violence failed in the past, it will fail again today.
Demonstrating that problems are best resolved through the democratic institutions at Stormont rather than through the bullets of dissidents will serve to undermine what little support they have and make clear for all to see that violence is futile.
Until election day, political leaders cannot let the actions of a minority derail the every day election called for by Peter Robinson. In that way they will prove that Ronan Kerr’s death was not in vain.Like this article? Sign up to Left Foot Forward's weekday email for the latest progressive news and comment - and support campaigning journalism by making a donation today.