Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Ireland unites against the killers.

Northern Ireland is uniting in condemnation of the recent killings carried out by the Real and Continuity IRA.

An unprecedented denunciation of dissident republican terrorists is expected to unfold across Ireland today with thousands of protesters expected in rallies in the north while politicians in the south unite to condemn the Real and Continuity IRA for the murders of two soldiers and a police officer.

The rallies have been organised at short notice in Belfast, Derry and other cities, and will coincide with Ireland's taoiseach, Brian Cowen, proposing a motion in the Dáil condemning the groups which have claimed responsibility for the shootings.

It really restores one's faith in human beings to see the way the people of Northern Ireland have reacted to this recent outbreak of violence. They are simply not having it. First, Adams and McGuinness made it very clear that they were willing to publicly condemn actions which they might have previously supported, then the people of Northern Ireland themselves appear to be standing up and shouting, "Enough!"

Martin McGuinness, Northern Ireland's deputy first minister, yesterday nudged mainstream republicans further towards full co-operation with the security forces. McGuinness said that if he had had any firsthand knowledge of who was behind the murder of PC Carroll he would personally pass it on to the police.

In the strongest language yet used by a leading figure in Sinn Féin, he condemned the killers as "traitors to the entire island of Ireland. They [the dissidents] have betrayed the political desires, hopes and aspirations of all of the people who live on this island. They don't deserve to be supported by anyone".

This would all have been unthinkable a few short years ago.

On the eve of the rallies, which have been organised by the Irish Congress of Trade Unions, Peter Bunting, the organisation's assistant general secretary, said the Real and Continuity IRA did not deserve to be called dissidents.

"This show of strength from civil society will send a clear message to the killers who do not deserve the monopoly of the word 'dissident'. The word is too good for them. They are delinquents. A clear message will also go to the outside world which makes clear the decency and humanity of the people of Northern Ireland."

The call for ordinary people to come out and show their disgust about the upsurge in violence came after PC Carroll was shot in the back of the head on Monday night - two days after the murders of two British soldiers outside their military barracks at Massereene, Antrim.

It does indeed make clear "the decency and humanity" of the people of Northern Ireland. A people who suffered years and years of hatred and terrible violence are saying that they are not willing to go back to all that and they wish the political process to continue.

And, at a time when the government might have been tempted to overplay it's hand to show how strong it is, the Northern Ireland Assembly are showing admirable restraint.
The chief constable of the PSNI, Sir Hugh Orde, insisted he would not be putting soldiers back on to the streets. He briefed Peter Robinson, the first minister, and McGuinness, his deputy, on the police response to the crisis and the three stood outside Stormont and urged everyone to back the police in helping to track down the killers.
It's all so very different from the way other people have reacted to terrorism. But I think the Northern Ireland Assembly are going about this the right way. There is no need to employ the army as Northern Ireland is not being attacked by an army, they are being targeted by criminals with a political cause, so this becomes a job for the police rather than the armed forces.

And, from the outpourings of condemnation directed towards the terrorists from the ordinary people of Northern Ireland, it would appear as if they think so too.

When the news came through at the weekend that two soldiers had been shot, it seemed an anachronism, something from a past age. When it became clear that the republican dissidents were using murder to try to restart the war, people felt sick.

Yesterday Frances McCandless, who helps co-ordinate community activism, summed up the reaction across community groups: "It's not a measured response – it's visceral, absolutely gut-wrenching; people are personally shocked. It's an absolutely unanimous message of revulsion."

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