Wednesday, 11 March 2009

The Killings in Northern Ireland

Early this week PoliticsHome surveyed its political mates in the know, most of whom seemed to feel that Sinn Fein's first public response to the killing by republican dissidents of two British soldiers at Massereene Barracks was, in the well-known phrase, "mealy-mouthed." "One left-leaning media panellist says: 'Sinn Fein has to decide which side it is on.'" Interestingly a Tory MP told PH that he felt Adams gradually got more in synch with the tone of McGuinness, whom he felt 'from the start has been tougher on the dissidents.'
Anyhow, all this has changed, if not utterly, since the killing of the Catholic police constable Stephen Carroll, McGuinness's description of the killers as 'traitors', and his call upon PC Carroll's widow in the company of DUP First Minister Peter Robinson. Lord Tom King (who, when Northern Ireland Secretary back in the late 1980s, came to my school one day to open a sports hall) today declared himself impressed by the Sinn Fein leadership: “It's the big test for them, I think. The first couple of days of the real test has been encouraging."
'Traitors' is not a word you will hear Gerry Adams use, for many awkward reasons, rehearsed in this Times article by Kevin Toolis which unpicks a wearily familar recent history that I hoped I would never have to revisit. So here we are again. But things have changed, no question.
Back in the far more dangerous early years of the post-Good Friday 'process', the former priest and mediator Dennis Bradley drew on his theological training to advise Sinn Fein that it had to follow the logic of its public position: if the republican movement was In this process and not Out, then there could not be two armies within one state. Bradley, an excellent man from Buncrana, knew exactly where he stood, and was even made to suffer for that stance in a nasty incident at a Derry pub. But the logic remains, has got harder yet, and has clearly impressed itself on McGuinness and on Adams, whomever is the more vocal or less tongue-tied of the two.

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