Confronting a violent minority: We must turn outrage into real action

One of the consequences of the murder of Lyra McKee, who will be buried today, in Derry last week is the sobering reminder that an enduring evil festers barely beneath the surface of this society.

Her death, at just 29, was a jolt that made it impossible to complacent, to be ambiguous about the threat posed by a tiny minority of physical force fantasists and thugs.

It made it impossible to hope that the relative peace this island has enjoyed for more than a decade is permanent. The near-universal reaction was one of outrage, rejection and well-channeled anger. That response cannot be temporary and must find expression in a way that includes all of society.

Her killer and the clandestine network that supports him must be left in no doubt that they have no mandate, that they are outcasts and that they are regarded as a cancer by the vast majority of people living on this island.

Yesterday’s “admission” from the dissident group the New IRA that they murdered McKee last Thursday and that they offered “full and sincere apologies” to her family and friends just adds to that obligation. The language of that statement shows a mindset from another age:

On Thursday night, following an incursion on the Creggan by heavily armed British crown forces which provoked rioting, the IRA deployed our volunteers to engage. We have instructed our volunteers to take the utmost care in future when engaging the enemy and put in place measures to help ensure this. In the course of attacking the enemy, Lyra McKee was tragically killed while standing beside enemy forces...

This lunacy continues a theme expressed by Dubliner Brian Kenna, the chairman of Saoradh, when he spoke to around 100 supporters at the republican plot in Milltown Cemetery in west Belfast on Monday.

Kenna, who has been convicted of IRA membership and armed robbery, told his audience that the New IRA was resisting an “incursion by crown forces” when McKee was shot. The day before Kenna spilled his bile in Belfast a group in paramilitary uniforms straight from central casting paraded in Cork, the day before that a similar group marched along Dublin’s O’Connell St.

Though pathetic and laughable, they cannot be dismissed or ignored.

Today we have to come to terms with the outrages uncovered at the mother and baby homes. Today we have to carry the guilt of a society that turned a blind eye, indeed tacitly endorsed, so many institutions that should have been secure refuges for the vulnerable but were something very different. We can do little enough about those historic events other than to do all we can to make sure they do not recur and that the survivors are offered comfort.

However, there is a lot we can do to ensure that the nightmare of politically motivated violence, if that is not an overly generous description of the horrors, resumes on this island. McKee’s murder showed that malign forces are indifferent to the wishes of the majority. Brexit, especially a disorderly one, may give them further opportunities to express that indifference to democracy. It is time to give real meaning to the phrase “not in our name”, we cannot stand idly by.

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