IT seems pointless, and probably wrong too, to try to establish a hierarchy of atrocity inflicted on this small island during the three decades of terror that preceded the Good Friday peace agreement.
Every side active during the 30 years of brutality behaved in ways that ensures they can all offer several entries for that dreadful list.
However, if such a project were undertaken, the murder of octogenarians Louis Mountbatten and Dorothy Brabourne and schoolboys Nicholas Knatchbull and local boat hand Paul Maxwell, when they were lobster fishing from Mountbatten’s boat Shadow V off Mullaghmore, Co Sligo, in August 1979, would deserve consideration.
The murders hardly rank among the IRA’s greatest acts of heroism in the name of their cause. They do not, or at least should not, warrant an extensive or proud entry in the annals of arms so venerated by the tradition of violent nationalism that has afflicted this Republic for far too long. Even the passage of time — almost 36 years — has not changed how that brutal and pointless — cowardly too — act can be imagined.
That, in advance of this week’s official visit by Britain’s Prince Charles and his wife, the Duchess of Cornwall, and their planned visit to Mullaghmore, three men have appeared before the Special Criminal Court charged with membership of the IRA and other offences as a result of a Garda security crackdown before the visit, reminds us that the threat posed by anti-democratic, delusional, and dangerous fantasists still exists.
One of the men is a leading figure in the dissident movement and was held after gardaí carried out more than 20 searches across three counties targeting men suspected of involvement in bomb-making. That at least one of the men — a second may follow suit — has refused to recognise the legitimacy of the court is an indication of the dangerous level of fantasy at play.
It is almost four years to the day since Britain’s Queen Elizabeth visited Ireland. The reception she was afforded, the warm and heartfelt céad míle fáilte, and the wish she expressed that we could overcome the hatreds and mistakes of the past to build a better relationship and future was almost universally welcomed. The event has had a hugely positive impact on our most important international relationship.
Imagine, so, how that relationship might change if this week’s welcome visitors were targeted by a tiny, unrepresentative minority who imagine that they have a right to use terror in the name of this society? Imagine, too, how such an atrocity might change the perception of this country among the world’s investors. Imagine how government agencies trying to woo foreign companies to these shore might try to explain it away?
In that context, it is appropriate and important that Sinn Féin issues a strong statement that condemns anyone considering such an attack and urging anyone with knowledge of plans for such an attack to inform the authorities. If the party cannot do this, it once again brings into question its suitability for office or power in this Republic.
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