Wednesday, 11 March 2009

Ulster Says No More Violence..

It's not often I stand foursquare behind the likes of Gordon Brown and David Cameron but I am more than happy to join with them in condemning unreservedly the latest terrorist violence in Northern Ireland. The murders of two soldiers at the weekend and a policeman on Monday are repulsive and repugnant atrocities and those who have perpetrated these crimes should be hunted down and dealt with using the full force of law.

One of the forgotten "gems" of the last fifteen years has been the economic renaissance of Ulster. The Belfast of today looks like any other major town or city in Britain but even twenty years ago, it was an inpoverished backwater. No one can argue that Tony Blair worked tirelessly and heroically to achieve the Good Friday Agreement but the foundations had been laid during the John Major Government.

Seeing former foes Ian Paisley and Martyn McGuinness taking office as leaders of a new political settlement was little short of miraculous. The decade or more of peace has brought economic prosperity in the form of substantial inward investment to Ulster and the rapis growth of the economy in Eire has also impacted on Northern Ireland.

Yet everyone knew the men of violence had not disappeared completely. True, the IRA had renounced violence and had laid down their weapons but splinter factions who rejected the path of peace have always been below the surface indulging in acts more criminal than anything else but now it seems murder and terror are resurfacing.

The response of most politicians has been firm and measured though I thought Gerry Adams was too equivocal. This kind of violence cannot have any place in civilised society and deserves the strongest possible condemnation by civilised people.

Of course, the cancer of inculculated mutual fear, suspicion and hatred won't be purged from the Ulster soul and body politic quickly. It may take a couple of generations before the sectarian walls (both physical and mental) come down. We must not risk this process by a heavy-handed response to these atrocities. Find and punish the perpetrators of course but the Republican community as a whole is not responsible and we must redouble our efforts to achieve integration and end whatever inequalities still exist in Ulster.

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