A rapid and decisive but calm response

Reactions to the latest murders here must be considered and careful. The first thing to state is that all our thoughts and indeed prayers should be with those injured and the families of those murdered in this attack. In the immediate aftermath that is the appropriate response. We must then await what we are told by the police and the army.I gain absolutely no pleasure from pointing out that I never believed that we had seen the end of violence here in Northern Ireland and that the sectarian hatreds (on both sides) which caused and sustained over 30 years of murder here did not vanish when the terrorists called their partial ceasefires. I always suspected the first of the murders would be here in Fermanagh, the fact that it was in Antrim should simply show that terrorists are still capable of striking anywhere in Northern Ireland.

There will, however, be significant political repercussions from this event. Whoever committed this wicked and murderous act there can be no doubt that the forces of law and order must be given every help to apprehend them and prevent further attacks. Only this week Hugh Orde announced that he was calling in specialist military personal: this must now be welcomed by all. It is quite clear that terrorists still represent a grave danger in Northern Ireland. These specialist soldiers are clearly necessary to protect the community. It is now time for all in positions of political responsibility to support their deployment and tell Hugh Orde that he will have their full support in implementing whatever other security measures are necessary. In addition all political and civic representatives must give wholehearted support to the rule of law and support their constituents reporting information to the police. Only by sustained support from the whole community can these criminals be apprehended.

There are also other issues which must be considered: it is necessary to deal severely with this threat but also it is important not to overreact. This is a democracy and the rule of law must be upheld by all. As such all must support the arrest of the perpetrators of this crime; arresting them would be infinitely preferable to the production of further “martyrs” for the cause of violent murder. This episode should also lead to questions being asked about weapons. It is unclear where the automatic weapons used in this murder came from. However, it is vital that all weapons are accounted for and those who know what happened to the IRA’s weapons must cooperate with the security forces to ensure that all have indeed been destroyed and that any which eluded destruction are tracked down. There can be no fudging or obscuration over this issue and it would be important for public confidence if we were all told what was previously decommissioned. In addition this episode should be a spur for the Secretary of State to demand the absolutely immediate surrender of all loyalist weapons. No one apart from those lawfully allowed should have any access to firearms in this society.

It is also important to very clearly demand that no so called loyalist terrorists commit any form of retaliation whatsoever. The only people in this society as loathsome as those who committed this act of murder are the loyalist terrorists who have also committed so many murders: they must be pursued with the same alacrity as the perpetrators of this latest crime.

This is a sad day which many in Northern Ireland thought would never happen again. I confess that I always thought it would. However, it is now vital for all of us of whatever persuasion to now unequivocally support the rule of law and support and actively encourage the whole community to go to the police in order that these murderers are arrested and imprisoned quickly but in accordance with the rule of law.

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