Taoiseach Enda Kenny rightly condemned those responsible for the mindless bombing outside a busy Belfast restaurant on Friday night.
He was scathing about their depraved agenda. Politicians from both sides of the political divide — nationalists and unionists, along with Protestant and Catholic churchmen — united over the weekend in their condemnation of this heinous endangering of innocent people.
Those involved in the bombing gave a newspaper a 24-minute warning, which is an extremely short time at such a busy period of the year, especially in the midst of rush hour. Complicating matters further, the bomb was about 150m away from the place identified. This could have been a deliberate ploy so people would be cleared into the path of the bomb. It may even have been a perverted effort to blame the police clearing the area.
Of course, blaming the police in such circumstances would be irrational, but nobody should underestimate the callous stupidity or the depraved mentality of anybody involved in such a bombing. Some 1,000 people were evacuated and it was particularly fortunate that nobody was killed or seriously maimed. A dissident group styling itself Óglaigh na hÉireann claimed responsibility. The majority of Irish republicans endorsed the Good Friday Agreement, renouncing violence.
These depraved people — who are trying to undermine the peace process by endangering innocent children at this time of year — are not just a disgrace to republicanism; they blight human decency. Defiling Christmas time in such a barbarous manner is an affront to Christianity itself and should be shunned by all self-respecting Christians — Catholic and Protestant.
Tomorrow marks the 30th anniversary of the Knightsbridge bombing in which six people were killed outside Harrods of London. What happened in Belfast over the weekend is nothing short of a naked attempt to turn the clock back 30 years, by undoing all the progress in Northern Ireland.
It was an obvious attempt to disrupt business at what is a crucial trading time. It will likely impact not just businesses in the vicinity, but throughout Belfast, as many people who might otherwise do some Christmas shopping in the city will inevitably be scared away, especially if they are shopping with children.
Any society that facilitates, or tolerates, such conduct deserves the contempt of humanity, especially at a time when the world has been celebrating the shining example of Nelson Mandela, who was buried yesterday.
He accorded the most magnificent example of the power of forgiveness in sitting down and co-operating with the enemies who jailed him for 27 years. In the past 20 years, his people have made phenomenal progress, and they have done so without trampling on those who suppressed them for so long. Of course, South Africa has still a long way to go to cement the progress of the past two decades.
Hopefully that progress will continue. Nelson Mandela certainly provided a shining example for such progress, not only in his own country, but also for all polarised societies, especially Northern Ireland.
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