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The answer to the new Irish republican bombers is not the British Army

2010 September 9
by Paul Vallely

It is unclear why, at this precise moment, after almost 12 years of peace and relative prosperity in Northern Ireland, the bombers are at it again. But one thing is clear from the eight-year-old boy whose 400 schoolmates were evacuated when he picked up what he described as a “golden pipe thing” in the playground and it turned out to be a bomb, which fortunately failed to explode. It is that – as with the three young girls who narrowly escaped serious injury when a bomb went off in a rubbish bin last month, or the child who had just been strapped into a car seat when her policewoman mother spotted the vehicle was booby trapped – it is invariably the innocent who pay the price of terrorism.

There have been 49 bombs planted in Northern Ireland over the last eight months, more than double the total for the whole of last year. Dissident republican groups seem determined to put an end to the period of post-conflict confidence which has grown since the signing of the Good Friday Agreement in 1998.

Some believe the explanation is unemployment. Northern Ireland has the highest level of economic inactivity in the UK. Those out of work have doubled in the last two years. Among young people under 24 more than one in six are jobless. Youth suicides are up. Alienated young people are turning to the violence of the rump republican groups, it is said.

Security sources in Dublin suggest the answer lies in the world of organised crime. The renewed violence is being fomented by drug gangs to draw police resources, on both sides of the border, away from cracking down on the smuggling of fuel, cigarettes and drugs.

At the heart of the bloodshed lie inadequate men who, once the Provisional IRA ended its armed struggle, found they had no purpose or status in life because their identity had become defined by their activities as terrorists.  They show no evidence of serious political strategy. Rather they offer all the old guff about “removing the British forces of occupation”, wilfully ignoring the fact that Westminster has observed a policy of neutrality in Northern Ireland for nearly two decades. It is Irish Protestants who resist the idea of a united island. And since the Good Friday agreement increasing numbers of Catholics serve in the Police Service of Northern Ireland.

There are, of course, durbrains on both sides. The pipe bomb in the school playground this week was almost certainly the work of Loyalist paramilitaries.

But the men of violence will not now succeed. In the 1970s the region was governed by Unionists Protestants, backed by the sectarian Royal Ulster Constabulary. Today, thanks to the Good Friday agreement, a network of institutions and rules is in place to ensure fairness  between the two communities. Catholics are not alienated from the state. Indeed when Catholic youths rioted in the Loyalist marching season the Irish News, once a sympathiser with the republican cause, denounced their actions as “vicious” and “animalistic”. The water of tacit support in which the sharks of terrorism swim has largely evaporated.
So it was unhelpful to hear talk in England this week of MI5 transferring agents from anti-Islamisist terrorist duties back to Ulster and security experts talking about the SAS sending a reconnaissance unit to the area.  There is nothing the bombers would like to see more than British troops back on the streets on Belfast.  They could have no more effective recruiting sergeant. That above all is to be avoided. There are more political ways of responding. And it is not the British, or Irish, governments which should be devising them. That is a job for Gerry Adams, Martin McGuinness and the leaders of Sinn Fein.

from the Chuch Times

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