Saturday 9 April 2011

Northern Ireland stares into the abyss again

Northern Ireland stares into the abyss again today. A huge bomb was discovered in a van beneath a fly-over on the A1 outside Newry yesterday. Police suspect the device was intended for a town centre somewhere and that, if it had reached its destination, it could have exploded with all the deadly force of the Omagh bomb 13 years ago. So tonight, we are all thankful for good police work and extremely lucky.

Those responsible for the device have not yet come forward. Neither has anybody declared responsibility for the murder of PC Ronan Kerr earlier this week, although 3 people have been arrested in relation to that crime.

Dissident Republicans are widely being blamed and there are a few of these groups that could have been responsible. Whoever it was, there seems to be no indication they have listened to the public outpouring of horror and condemnation that followed the murder of the policeman. Their campaign goes on, and we can probably expect it to intensify as the election approaches and the Queen prepares to visit Dublin in May.

Although the bomb failed to reach its destination, it did its job in other ways: it has struck fear into Northern Ireland yet again. The silence of these ruthless killers adds a new dimension to the terror they are trying to instil. In the old days of the IRA, the people of Northern Ireland knew who they were dealing with. But we are now faced with some menacing rogue element that listens to nobody, talks to nobody, just kills. We don't know who they are, what they are trying to achieve, how much ammunition they have and what they are capable of. The discovery of a huge arms cache, including machine guns, was linked to one of the arrests in the week. The scale of the find indicates that there is either some source of weaponry the terrorists are using abroad, or that the IRA did not decommision all of their weapons as promised.

At the moment, we live in great uncertainty and, it seems, we are all potential victims.

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