Vir Cantium

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Category Archives: Northern Ireland

Dissident Dissidents

Well, as a layman in NI politics, sitting in the opposite corner of the country, even I wasn’t that surprised at the two recent dissident terrorist attacks in the province. With the Belfast peace lines still growing, car bombs being planted only a few weeks ago, and “unsuccessful” shootings altready taking place, it was only a matter of time before soldiers and coppers were once again falling victim to IRA bullets.

It seems to me that one of the key objectives of the peace process – for which no price was too high – was to make peace such a normal and ingrained way of life in Ulster that a return to violence would be unthinkable. It’s a worthy and laudable aim. Just like after the 1918 armistice and Versailles treaty the following year.

Which worked well.

Now it would be grossly pessimistic, I suppose, to take these two incidents as heralding a return to the bad old days. I suppose it would be very glass-half-empty to assume that the nationalist community in some way still harboured a desire for a united Ireland, that the IRA, in all its forms, had not disbanded, or at least hadn’t morphed into an organised crime syndicate. After all, the latest events are caused by merely “dissident” elements, numbering “only” 200 or so, according to an expert yesterday. That’s probably an accurate technical description, in so far as the majority of people on both sides of the divide do not want politics to turn into a violent arena, just as they didn’t, I suspect, through most of the last wave of Troubles.

Let’s not forget, the Provisional IRA were a dissident group once.

Now, while eyes naturally turn to Sinn Fein to condemn unequivocally the violence, the real key to continuing (relative) peace in NI is down to the loyalist paramilitaries. If they hold their nerve, then the latest IRA campaign will have failed. They’ve had to put up with former IRA terrorists in power, IRA terrorists released early, and now IRA terrorists once again murdering people on the streets. They’ve sat tight throughout all that (I’m not sure I could have). Now, I hope they can continue to do so, for ironically it’s in their hands that the future of a peaceful (and continuing British) Ulster lies.

P.S. I wonder how Ted Kennedy is enjoying his honorary knighthood?

P.P.S. I notice that Gordon Brown has said there will be “no return to the old days” of violence in NI. Phew. So we can just get on with enjoying our stable, not booming-or-busting economy then.