Woodward hopes that the public response to Massareene barracks will stir consciences over Omagh

BBC NI are annoyingly slow to update their website on such a big story, so here’s my take from Radio Ulster. In his response on Radio Ulster’s 7 Days to the Massareene barracks murders, Shaun Woodward the NI Secretary of State made some interesting points. Despite the high threat level, “ we did not see this attack on the barracks coming” even though it was a clearly a “ premeditated attempt at mass murder.” The killers “ feared we would complete the devolution of policing and justice. – they want to stall it: that’s their campaign.” A rather left field opinion, surely: the devolution of p&j will increase pressure on SF by distancing them further from the republican tradition the dissidents purport to defend. More likely is the theory put by Gerry Adams that the aim is to provoke the return of the army on the streets. Whether by luck or design, as noted the timing of the attack will have caused SF considerable embarrassment, Adam’s statement taking 14 hours to emerge and coming less than 24 hours after his warning to Hugh Orde that he was risking losing republican support over the deployment of Special Reconnaissance Regiment personnel.

Woodward also played down those objections of Sinn Fein and the SDLP to the deployment ( “the rhetoric was pretty heated but didn’t shed much light”), adding that the Chief Constable was “entirely right “ to do so. “When the army’s security role ended, “we made it clear that we would retain military expertise for example to defuse that bomb in Castlewellan, just as the Met commissioner can call on it to tackle al_Qaida.”
In an intriguing reflection, he volunteered a comparison with Omagh. “If we refer back to the Omagh atrocity there are people who know who did it. It will take time to bring the perpetrators to justice. There is still a climate of fear and we will have to work at it. I’m determined we will do it in memory of those two boys shot last night.” This appears at odds with the prevailing view put for example by Hugh Orde that the time for mounting a successful prosecution over Omagh has probably gone. Could it be that the Massareene barracks murders might reawaken consciences and fruitfully revive old contacts?

Two other points , one noted by BBC NI Political editor Mark Devenport. One, it took 14 hours for Sinn Fein to issue an initial “clinical” response, at first omitting the word “ condemn” This, he was surely right to say, reflected difficulties over their historic antagonism to the British army and also their disapproval shared by the SDLP, of the decision to call in the SRR. Mark noted that Martin McGuinness and Mitchel McLaughlin had since condemned the attack and sent sympathy to the relatives on the BBC’s Politics show, which no doubt will be posted on Slugger shortly.

Major questions for the future. Will this attack speed up or delay the transfer of policing and justice powers? When they are transferred, can the Executive hold together over highly sensitive matters such as calling in the Army on future specific missions? In that event, what would an Alliance minister do? Or are tricky matters like this an inviolable part of Orde’s operational independence, however much the nationalist parties might object? Will the parties learn the lesson of the attack, that to split over limited and sensible security measures plays into the hands of violent extremists? If nothing else, last night’s horror ought to concentrate minds. None more than Sinn Fein’s, but not theirs alone.

  • moggy

    Good points Brian. Here is Anthony McIntyre’s take which I found on you tube.

  • It was Sammy Mc Nally what done it

    Brian

    ” feared we would complete the devolution of policing and justice. – they want to stall it: that’s their campaign.” He is absolutely spot on here and as pointed out previously by the SOS those stalling the implementation of Police and Justice are likely to be assisting dissidents by not cementing the Peace Process.

    Unionist and Tory foot dragging and abmivalence on this issue (and your rather strange ‘left field opinion’ remark above seems to feed in to this) has been very regrettable and hopefully these dreadful events will help them to avoid the temptation of trying to play politics with the Peace Process.

  • veritas

    why the emphasis on SF and the SDLP to condemn this attacks?

    They didn`t carry them out and if truth be told many Nationalists won`t shed any tears over British Army deaths, not that I agree with that sentiment but out in the Nationalist community, that sentiments still there…

  • Damian

    One must not forget, that the Omagh bomb could have been avoided, but the British authorities decided that the loss of Nationalist life would have more of an impact upon Republicans.
    In terms of the recent shooting, the soldiers are deemed as “legitimate targets,” therefore such an operation could be justified from a Republican perspective.
    The media and “new” Sinn Fein coined the ridiculous phrase, “dissident.” Let’s not ignore the fact that it was Sinn Fein that turned its back upon traditional Republican ideologies:
    Supporting the British Occupation via the Executive
    Supporting / acknowledging the PSNI

    Therefore it was only a matter of time before “True” Republicans mounted a backlash…

  • jone

    It was premeditated and we didn’t see it coming? Wow, that’s insightful stuff.

    Devenport’s blog

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/thereporters/markdevenport/

  • picador

    Will this attack speed up or delay the transfer of policing and justice powers?

    I believe that an understanding has been reached that this will occur in the summer (after the Euro elections). Ideally it would take place before then as the delay plays into the hands of the dissidents. However Robbo has his own dissident to deal with in the form of Jim Allister.

    And would the Executive then split over calling in the Army on future specific missions?

    Of course but the decision will most be out of their hands.

    What would an Alliance minister do?

    Whatever the NIO tell him or her to do, I suspect. But perhaps David Ford will tell us.

    Or this is an inviolable part of Orde’s operational independence, however much the nationalist parties might object?

    What does the legislation say?

    Will the parties learn the lesson of the attack, that to split over limited and sensible security measures plays into the hands of violent extremists?

    Is that the really the lesson of this attack?

  • Samantha

    why the emphasis on SF and the SDLP to condemn this attacks?

    What a silly question! Self-explantory really…

    Not that it will matter what SF say anyway…im sure they spent last night thinking of just the right thing to say…of course they will spin off some ‘sincere’ speech, maybe that way they can score some political points!

  • Gregory

    “ feared we would complete the devolution of policing and justice. – they want to stall it: that’s their campaign.”

    Why fear that, to be honest

    it will be more Cowtown, the dissidents, would in my opinion, would be quite pleased with that, it would be a mess,

    This place isn’t capable of running its own justice system, its far too corrupt.

    Wasn’t the assembly to be used to leverage a pardon from HMtQ by the SDLP after it being turned down by Goggins/Woodward?

    I wouldn’t trust such people to run a justice system.

  • Gregory

    “and if truth be told many Nationalists won`t shed any tears over British Army deaths, not that I agree with that sentiment but out in the Nationalist community, that sentiments still there…”

    That is true, the British are disliked, hated by many, and I think the ‘perspective’ came into being when the violence had ‘ended’ (if you understand what I mean).

    I think lots of Catholics, now *know* they hate the Brits. Previously, tribalism, had them on-side, post GFA,

    I think dislike of the British solidified into a the default condition for many.

    It is a kind of ‘nationalism’ but not republicanism, it is an older kind of thing, defenderism perhaps.

  • SGC

    Police and Justice powers should not be transferred to the Assembly. The Secretary of State can waffle all he likes the quick transfer of these powers and that transferring these would stop what we witnessed last evening what a lot of nonsense.

    If you think the current position of government in Northern Ireland (I do not call it a peace process) would survive that well I am not so sure. Can you just picture in your mind the conversation around the executive table between the Shinners and SDLP on one side and the Unionists on the other I would say never the twain will meet.

    To prove my point just recall the efforts of Alex Maskey (SF) and Dolores Kelly (SDLP) trying to be more hard line than the other during the past three days even just hours before this dastardly act McGuinnes was on Inside Politics backing up what was said by Nationalists in recent days. I have to say they share a lot of the blame for the murder of the soldiers and the injuring of both the soldiers and civilians

  • It was Sammy Mc Nally what done it

    SGC

    That being your view you can vote for the TUV. They will probably get the least votes of the 3 Unionists parties – your opinion will therfore not hold sway.

  • Erin go Bragh

    In response to “Gregory’s post:” I could not have put it any simpler. Whenever I heard the news last night, my immediate reaction was, “And what?” What I am trying to say is, the media and poltical arena has skilfully ‘glossed’ over the whole of the North, pretending that the troubles are over. The problem is that the large scale, organised violence may have ended, however on the ground it still exists.

    There is still deep lying resentment and ‘dislike’ (NOT hatred) within the Nationalist community towards the British establishment, therefore in terms of “shedding a tear over British Army deaths….” no, not one.

  • clonakilty

    So many people with so many ‘theories’ as to why this attack took place.
    The simplest one hasn’t been discussed, these people believe (as s.f used to believe) that the british army have no right to be in ireland. that’s what they say they themselves so why is everyone trying to come up with other reasons? the same used to happen when the ‘good’ ira were active, all kinds of reasons given except the most logical, the british soldiers were there.

  • SGC

    I was sammy mcNally what done it.

    Sorry to disappoint you I will not be voting for the TUV who could never be classed as a unionist party they are as backward looking as Sinn Fien. My vote will go to one of the real Unionist parties. I am glad to say my opinions are shared by a large section of the Unionist family.

  • Yokel

    Clonakilty

    Nice and simple, and most liklely correct.

  • Clonakilty,

    Surely you miss the more obvious explanation – Irish Republicans enjoy murder.

    Brian Walker,

    You present this in terms of the potential awkwardness for Sinn Fein. However this is beside the point. We KNOW the IRA savagery that underlines Sinn Fein kudos, the real awkwardness here is for Peter Robinson, the man who now seeks to differentiate these murders from the hundreds of IRA murders. DUP moral equivocation has been exposed by the events in Antrim.

  • veritas

    “What a silly question! Self-explantory really”…

    is it? Why do Nationalist politicians have to apologize or condemn actions that have nothing to do with them!!!

  • Erin go Bragh

    David Vance,

    Irish Republicans enjoy murder just as much as those belonging to the British Establishment and it’s Loyalist cohorts do!

    One simply has to look at Irish history to realise that there will always be those willing to resort the the “true,” traditional Republican nature of armed struggle. Therefore the shootings merely represents the death of “legitimate” targets…

  • Brownie

    In situations like this you have to examine who benefits from this type of activity?

    In the lead up to this operation the Chief constable was making it clear in both a public way and in private to Journalists that “dissidents” were both planning and capable of an attack upon the UKs national interests.
    That was done to for a specific reason (you make your own mind up why) because if he genuinely had pre-emptive Intelligence upon an attack or the Knowledge persons were intent on carrying out an attack he would have said nothing for fear of alerting them because as Anthony McIntyre a former IRA soldier made very clear on Sky television today dissidents are thoroughly infiltrated by both security force assets and their new “Republican friends”
    What the Chief Constable did last week though was to deliberately inform the public that he needed and had requested “specialist” assets to be deployed within NI to counter this threat. The truth and reality is that these “specialist soldiers” had never left the operational theatre; they remain to protect HMG and the national interest. Anybody who thinks otherwise are sadly mistaken indeed in 2007 HMG admitted using covert specialist soldiers in an arrest of dissidents planting a bomb.
    So why does Sir Hugh make this statement especially when he has no primacy or responsibility for collecting Intelligence upon Republicans who pose a threat to HMG national interest (terrorism). MI5 have this responsibility not the PSNI?

    That statement by Sir Hugh created an atmosphere of fear in some sections of both communities. That was deliberate.
    The only persons who gain in this situation are those who want a degree of stability to exist so that their self interests are protected. The way I see this is the only persons who could possible seek to benefit are similar to those who carried out acts similar to:

    1. Omagh. The state admits to having the bomb team under surveillance at the time of the attack, documents registered with the court this week for and on behalf of the family state on oath that the state had not only telephone intercepts but also a one way technical device within the bombers vehicles. The prospect of at least one state agent within this operation is accepted by most informed persons; indeed one person has been named within Parliament as being involved and remains to today resident within the North and as never been interviewed or questioned by any state agencies about the atrocity. His personal mobile phone was also telephoned on the day of the bombing by those within the Bombers vehicle

    2. The Murder of 23-year-old Lance Bombardier Stephen Restorick the last Brit soldier to die in NI on active duty. He was shot by an IRA sniper in 1997, even though the peace process was already considerably advanced at the time. A “Specialist soldier” later told the Sunday times that they had the Terrorists under surveillance at the time of the attack . He was later threatened with prosecution by HMG for offences under the OSA.

    Like I said earlier, this game is a long and dirty one and not everything you see is obvious and to those that think the state would never kill its own soldiers and risk the lives of the general public for its own selfish interests! You are living in cloud cuckoo land! Ask Constable McMurray (RUC) about that or Lance Bombardier Stephen Restorick or Francisco Notorantonio amongst many, many others.

    Oops sorry you cannot – They are dead.

    Brownie

  • Comrade Stalin

    Please ignore the Vance troll.

    Brian, they were some good points.

    When they are transferred, can the Executive hold together over highly sensitive matters such as calling in the Army on future specific missions?

    This is a matter you would like to think Sinn Fein have accounted for, since it is not and never has been the police’s job to defuse bombs. I’d expect that the legislation provides for the Chief Constable retaining that discretion by himself and being allowed to exercise it (and presumably a number of other “reserved matters”) without having to refer to the Justice Minister, and without the Minister being able to interfere.

    In that event, what would an Alliance minister do?

    Not interfere in a police operational matter, I would expect.

    Or are tricky matters like this an inviolable part of Orde’s operational independence, however much the nationalist parties might object?

    You got it.

    I think one further aspect to this is that some kind of enquiry will have to be held into why the army, of all people, apparently had their guard down. The responsibility for the attack clearly lies squarely on the shoulders of the murdering thugs who carried it out, so I do not wish to convey the impression that the blame lies elsewhere.

    But I can’t help feeling that the deaths would have been avoided if the army had taken some straightforward precautions. There are questions to be answered why, given the recent history of attempts on the lives of police officers in broad daylight, the army weren’t on full alert in anticipation of an attack. Going by the description of events it appears that the protagonists sat in a parked car, presumably for some time, and nobody suspected anything.

  • Erin go Bragh

    The RIRA issued a statement in 2003:

    “The British continue to claim sovereignty over part of our country and while that is the case armed struggle will always be justified.”

    The Armed struggle may not necessarily be an, “end in itself,” but one only has to look at the gains made by Sinn Fein / PIRA to see that such a tactic worked in the past.

    As Gregory stated on another post, “there would not be many tears shed in the Nationalist community due as a result of the killing of British soldiers.” The point is, he is stating the truth, as although there may never be a return to full scale violence, resentment still exists underneath the surface….

  • Comrade Stalin

    Erin go Bragh,

    There’s nothing that marks you out as a daft plastic paddy than that name. can you come up with something else ? Something that doesn’t bastardize the Irish language by transliterating selected words into English ?

    The Armed struggle may not necessarily be an, “end in itself,” but one only has to look at the gains made by Sinn Fein / PIRA to see that such a tactic worked in the past.

    Gains ? The IRA was defeated, made to hand in it’s weapons, and practically disband, in order to participate in a British-legislated local assembly operated under a unionist veto. The only difference between it and the old Stormont government is that the nationalists now also have a veto. This isn’t what the IRA fought for.

    The real masterstroke of Gerry Adams and his leadership of Sinn Fein has been to persuade republicans that something far short of the objectives they fought for was in fact what they were fighting for all along.

    As Gregory stated on another post, “there would not be many tears shed in the Nationalist community due as a result of the killing of British soldiers.”

    Gregory isn’t representative of the nationalist community. Google him.

    The point is, he is stating the truth, as although there may never be a return to full scale violence, resentment still exists underneath the surface….

    The whole Eames/Bradley process has been focus on victims and hurt, and I heard nationalists and republicans saying during that debate how they were aware that the families of British soldiers and police officers who were killed would have experienced the same hurt that they did. Nobody who has any shred of humanity could say they don’t feel anything for the families of those victims, and I’d like to think republicans – now at least – are mostly humane.

  • Samantha

    veritas,

    Considering all eyes are on them, and why shouldn’t they be? The emphasis for condemnation wasnt concentrated quite so much on the SDLP but on SF…and is it any wonder?
    1. Not only do they make up a great deal of government – and therefore should be condemning any such tragedies!
    2. SF’s past (and some would argue present) so naturally people will be interested to see what they say about the whole thing…Which in my opinion wasn’t particularly impressive considering how long it took them to come up with something…

    I believe my latter comment was correct…Politicians pick their words very carefully…Mcguiness referred to it as an ‘incident’ unlike others who called it a tragedy!

  • Samantha

    The whole Eames/Bradley process has been focus on victims and hurt, and I heard nationalists and republicans saying during that debate how they were aware that the families of British soldiers and police officers who were killed would have experienced the same hurt that they did.

    I’m sure the families all felt pain but giving money to IRA men’s families just doesn’t seem like justice would be done. You can’t possibly compare an IRA man with the Police service/British Army…and at the end of the day, the IRA killed many innocent nationalists aswell..

    Im sure many Unionists would say that many Nationalist families felt the same hurt as them also but as I said…IRA families…Just seems like a bit of a joke really!

  • Erin go Bragh

    Comrade Stalin,

    The PIRA brought the British Government on their knees via the “Ballot box / armalite.”
    During the secret talks, certain elements within the IRA were not happy with the British Governments stalling tactics:
    Thus the 1996 Dockland bomb. (£85m damage)
    The British Governments reaction, install CCTV throughout London
    A few months later, Manchester bomb. (£411m damage)
    The British Government realised the vulnerability of ALL UK towns / cities. This led to appeasement and economic, financial & political gains for Republicans.

    As for “surrender” of weapons… Please, mere tokenism. What is gone today can be replaced tomorrow. You can’t decommission 2 shovels, 10 bags of fertiliser and a coffee grinder!

    I am aware that Gregory does not speak for the Nationalist community, I merely used his quote to highlight the truth… Fortunately, I can speak for the Nationalist community, as I have experienced the Troubles first hand. “Not many tears would be shed at with the death of British soldiers,” because our wounds are so deep.

    The families of IRA volunteers are entitled to the same compensation as others. Many young men got ‘involved,’ simply to defend their families and community. I knew some fellas who got involved, due to the inequalities and 2nd class status we had in our OWN country!
    Lets not forget, we did not create the situation, remove the problems, then no reason to resort to physical Republicanism.

    We could say the same thing, how could you compare an innocent Catholic to a member of the RUC or British Army? Both of these were guilty of collusion with Loyalist paramilitaries.

    Two sides – two versions – two opinions…

    McGuinness used the term “incident” as he is still threading a thin line. Republicans would be monitoring his comment, too strong then he is refuting his grass roots support.

    PS, I ain’t a plastic Paddy! As for my username Comrade Stalin, please grow up and check it’s historical significance…