Northern Ireland unites as fears grow over dissidents

Ed Jacobs reports from Northern Ireland where national unity against the dissident terrorists sits side by side with a growing fear over their continuing threat.

Constable Ronan Kerr

Thousands of people have marched for peace in Northern Ireland, where there is growing concern over the dissident threat in the midst of the ongoing election campaign for Stormont.

Just over a week on from the tragic death of constable Ronan Kerr following a bomb attack in Omagh, protesters from all communities took to the streets on Sunday with placards declaring “Not in My Name”, sending a powerful message to the dissident republicans responsible for the attack that they will not be allowed to derail the peace process.

Speaking at the event, Gareth McEldduff, who used Facebook to organise the event explained its purpose, concluding:

“Everybody seems happy to come out today to show their support, first of all for the Kerr family and to show overall their support for the peace process.

“And although these are major, major setbacks in the peace process, hopefully the amount of people that is going to come out today is going to show everybody that we want peace in Ireland again and we don’t want to go back to the Troubles.”

For the family, constable Kerr’s cousin, Sinead O’Kane said of the dissident activity:

“It has to stop now, and let his [Kerr’s] death not have been in vain. And hopefully the people who are out there will be listening and it will strike a chord with someone and they’ll come forward and help in the murder investigation.”

The protest came amid growing concern that dissidents are looking to mount a so called ‘spectacular’ attack to disrupt the election campaign for the Northern Ireland Assembly. It followed the defusing, over the weekend, of a 500lb van bomb on the main Dublin to Belfast motorway in Newry. Speaking after the discovery, chief superintendent Alasdair Robinson was clear that the device could have caused “carnage”.

Meanwhile, amidst the ongoing security alert, Sinn Fein leaders condemned the use of violence and called on those responsible to make their case through the ballot box rather than the bullet.

Writing on his blog under an article entitled “It’s Time to Stop”, Sinn Fein leader, Gerry Adams argued that the Republican movement was “seething with anger” following the murder of constable Kerr. He continued:

“I have no problem with anyone disagreeing with Sinn Féin. That is your right, but you have no right to attack anyone and there is no support for this. That is clear from the overwhelming public rejection of the attack which killed Ronan Kerr. The people of this island demand that you stop.

“I am prepared to meet you anywhere at any time to listen to what you have to say and to tell you that there is now a democratic peaceful way to unite our people and our country on the basis of equality.

“Your achievement has been to unite us all in opposition to your actions. It is time to end these futile attacks on the peace process; they will not succeed.”

And speaking on the Andrew Marr programme on Sunday, Sinn Fein’s deputy first minister, Martin McGuinness called for those responsible and anyone with information on the attacks to pass it to police on both sides of the border.

Questioned by Martha Kearny on this call for people to come forward, McGuinness explained:

“Well condemnation, Martha, isn’t going to be enough, and everybody has had their opportunity to condemn the terrible murder of Ronan Kerr and the incident yesterday, which could have resulted in multiple deaths in the Newry area.

“So what we do need to do is support the police in the south, the Garda, and the police in the North. And they’ve had huge success over the course of the last twelve months against the activities of some of these groups.”

As voters prepare to go to the polls, communities will come under increasing pressure as dissidents become increasingly desperate to disrupt the democratic elections. The challenge facing political leaders of all parties and communities will be to show that their will is stronger, that the will of those who seek to destroy will not prevail against those who seek a normalisation of Northern Ireland’s politics.

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.