On what need not become a definitive date in Northern Irish history
Some thoughts following the double murder, and serious injuries inflicted upon four other men, by the South Antrim brigade of the self-styled Real IRA:
These murders are, first and foremost, irreversible human tragedies. The suffering they will cause to those who survive the dead has only begun. While friends and family can try to support each other, they can only minimise the pain caused deliberately by the murderers.
Whether or not this leads to further tragedy is something society can act upon. The most important response lies not in what we are against, but what we are for. The answer to that lies in the two peace agreements, whose mandate is the greatest weapon against those opposed to peace.
The response to the murders should be to bring the perpetrators to justice. Should any group or individual seek to administer its own form of justice, they would be denying the victims’ families the most significant right they now have.
The response by political parties, if at times not as prompt as one might have hoped, has been correct – to appeal for unity against the futile and unjust campaign of violence led by dissident republicans.
The response should be justice, not vengeance.
The deployment of SRR personnel is now being accepted by many as necessary and urgent. However, there remain valid reasons for opposition to the current administration of the security services. The allegations of complicity in the torture of Binyam Mohamed, the failure to provide justice to the families of Rosemary Nelson or Pat Finucane and, in particular, the failure to respond to the questions raised by the recent Panorama on the Omagh bombing, are testament to that validity.
It is therefore urgent that the security services allow greater scrutiny of their modi operandi. This would be cohesive for a divided society and effective in the fight against paramilitaries on all sides. The decision to allow loyalist paramilitaries to keep their weapons needs urgently to be reviewed.
The response by state organisations should take into account the overwhelming opposition in all communities to these murders and grievous injuries.
Regardless of the status of victim – military, police or civilian – murder, particularly during a peace process commanding overwhelming public support, is a sub-human act.
People of my generation, too young to have experienced the violence of the past but in some cases inspired by it, may do well to listen to those did suffer it.