The sad truth about the “peace” in Northern IrelandPosted on April 4, 2011
Northern Ireland has been transformed in the last decade. When I last visited Belfast, just over a year ago, I was struck by how much the city centre resembled the newly revived post-industrial city centres of Newcastle, Sheffield and Manchester. But despite all the spin, the glossy veneer still conceals some uncomfortable truths.
We on the UK mainland were shocked when PC Ronan Kerr of the PSNI was killed by a bomb in his car in Omagh on Saturday. Rightly so – it was a shocking and sickening act of murder perpetrated by truly evil people.
The character of much of the shock expressed was very much along the lines of “how could this happen now that we have peace in Northern Ireland?” The simple and sad truth is that those of us outside Ulster are routinely misled by politicians and the media about what the situation is really like. It is true that things are far better than they were when the Troubles were at their height, and that the Peace Process, with its attendant ceasefire by the Provos, UVF etc has made people much safer.
But – and it is a massive but – terrorism has never stopped. Shootings, bombings and beatings have remained a regular occurrence, as have failed attacks.
The Police Service of Northern Ireland publishes regular statistics on what they call the “Security Situation”. The latest data release shows that from 1st April 2010 up until the end of February 2011 there were:
68 shooting incidents (this includes when the security forces open fire)
30 casualties caused by paramilitary-style shootings
96 bombing incidents, involving 98 bombs (which includes defusings, but not hoaxes)
48 casualties caused by “paramilitary-style assaults” (ie beatings)
85 firearms found
Over 2.72 kg of explosives found
Call it what you like, but that is far from a state of “peace”. If a situation like this arose from nothing in, say, Manchester, then we would view it as a serious and active terrorist movement.
Of course, by contrast to what went before things are a lot better. The reasons for the cheery consensus that Northern Irish terrorism is a solved problem are understandable – everyone wants it to be solved for good, but just pretending that it is helps nobody.
PC Ronan Kerr’s murder should be a wake-up call that this issue demands all our attention, and cannot be swept under the carpet.