Reflections on a bad day for Northern Ireland

Anyone with a moral bone in their body would have been shocked at last night’s horrific events. I only heard of the news this morning, and was left in a state of shock and sadness. Two, possibly three people losing their lives at the hands of Republican gunmen who preyed on these men while they innocently ordered a pizza before they set off for Afghanistan.

The first thing on my mind was concern and sadness for the soldiers, who were around the same age as me and the same age as some guys I know of serving in our forces abroad. The second was one for democracy and stability in Northern Ireland.

As First Minister Peter Robinson was about to head off to the United States for St. Patrick’s Day festivities, but more importantly in aid of promoting our province as a sound place to invest, these individuals just send a shiver down the spine of Northern Ireland.

This one event may be a one off, or the start of a sequence of events. Walking through Belfast City centre this afternoon, with a loved one, we pushed our way through silent, empty streets. Perhaps this was a reaction to last night’s horrific events or a reaction to the media talk of the ‘great economic depression’, or perhaps the bad weather. But I never remember seeing the streets of Belfast being so empty since the end of the troubles.

Conversely while it may seem early to look at the political ramifications this is an event which could change the political pathway of Unionism as the extremes are bolstered by the tragedy. Jim Allister has run on an anti-Stormont ticket all along. The danger in this scenario is that this could be Peter Robinson’s Omagh bomb event, in terms of the view of the Unionist electorate; might people start to listen to the Traditional Unionist Voice?

However are we really going to go there again? Are we going to let an unrepresentative rabble dictate the political agenda? Such a scenario would be depressing for Northern Ireland and see Unionism playing and shouting from the back of the room. Plus we’d just see government attempts refocus to seeing the Assembly working again.

It is up to us; what I would say is don’t let an unelected, unrepresentative mob of murderers derail what has taken almost a decade to build.

  • Gregory

    The Taliban could eventually end up in government, or negotiatig with President Obama,

    so maybe Afghanistan and Northern Ireland, have something in common.

    That is you simply never give up, and apply yourself to reckless atrocity, and one day, you get to meet a US President

    Is that the lesson?

    Or is it, that British soldiers are still dying in Ireland and Aghanistan?

  • Gregory

    US open to Afghan Taliban talks
    MWC News – ‎9 hours ago‎
    “The Taliban want to negotiate and tell the Americans and international troops to go out. Through this negotiation, a timetable will be chosen and the other …

    There you go, that translates as

    ‘we don’t want to fight you if there is a out option”

    And that means, there has to be a ‘moderate’ faction desperately trying to sell sanity to the ‘wild men’

    The thing is, the ‘mderates’ are generally in charge of the wild men

    It was so in the 1920s and there you go,

  • KieranJ

    “we pushed our way through silent, empty streets.”

    Andrew, why would folks have to “push” themselves through silent empty streets?”

  • threequarks

    Posted by Gregory on Mar 09, 2009 @ 01:24 AM

    gregory – its not often reported, but bear in mind that General Petreaus , of the Iraqi “surge” strategy, is now in charge of the Afghan conflict.

    reaching out to the Taliban is all part of his counter-insurgency ideas. it sounds counter intuitive, but it has worked in Iraq.

    maybe we should have American army bases in Northern Ireland rather than British?

  • The events that took place in Antrim do cast a dark cloud over Northern Ireland but we have to take the positives from this situation. People around the country have come together in solidarity, standing in defiance to the backward murders who want to drag this country back to grim times. We can clearly see that this tiny minority of blood thirsty bigots have little support in the wider populous and therefore will eventually flounder in their quest for hatred.

    Mike

    http://canyouwalkonthericepaper.blogspot.com/

  • Jared

    Isn’t it a bit presumptious to say the shooters were Republican?

  • Louise Michel

    From Sky talking of ‘murder’ of soldiers and quoting a British Minister talking about “attempted mass murder” to some of the comments here and Andrew Charles’ original piece, it’s sad to see such propaganda and self-delusion going hand-in-hand.

    What the Good Friday Agreement brought is a temporary end to political killing in Ireland — it resolved nothing and therefore a return to war at some point is an inevitability. The upturn in the economy brought some tangible improvements in many people’s lives but that’s on the way out now.
    And let’s not forget that the political killing in Ireland was started by the unofficial forces of the Crown followed closely by its official forces.

    For anyone who believes he’s fighting for his country, soldiers of an occupying forces are a legitimate target. Killing an unarmed soldier is not something I think I could do but British soldiers certainly kill plenty of unarmed people, whether in Ireland in our recent past or in other countries of the world in the present.

    Killing or wounding civilians is another difficult one to justify (spies and ruling class members and executive officials excepted) but is far from rare in many struggles against occupation when the civilians are considered to be collaborating with the enemy. Many resistance movements to the German occupying forces did the same during World War 2.

    Maybe what I find hardest of all to stomache in what’s being written about this, however, is the notion that we should leave British soldiers in peace on Irish soil while they prepare to go to kill the people of another country.

    None of all that however is to suggest that this action by the RIRA (if it was them) was a timely or a useful one at the current low-ebb stage of the anti-imperialist struggle in Ireland.

  • sammy bacon

    Louise Michel, yours is the kind of unbalanced and ‘my tribe is right’ viewpoint the moderate majority in NI are trying to leave behind, and it seems apparent that you are quite satisfied with the unjust murders of these soldiers.

    What you call ‘Irish soil’ and you are entitled to call it that as its your opinion, is what the majoity of us in Northern Ireland call ‘Northern Irish soil’ or ‘British soil’ in a political context. Therefore these British soldiers based in NI are our own and by our legitimate and free opinion have every right to be left in peace – peace, something you seem to have problems with. Now i fully accept that not everyone in NI sees these British soldiers as their own or that NI is British soil, but at least i’m not so delusional or so caught up in my own propoganda to claim that they do. Unlike you, I acknowledge the opinions of another chunk of NI society, instead of pretending that it doesnt exist. Accept that the majoity of people in Northerrn Ireland are British and therefore dont see themselves as living under an ‘imperialist’ domain as you refer to it in typically dogmatic republican language from the dark ages, unsurprising really as thats where your headspace seems to be at – please acknowledge a more balanced reality of present day NI.

    Probably not the time or place to have a detailed discussion on British or US Troop involvement in Afghanistan, but as we are there now, its pretty much accepted by a large chunk of the Afghan populace that troops have generally been a force for positive change, as hard as thats been and despite mistakes made (Times survey). But you are never going to admit that, or again have any sense of measured debate with your republican specs on – similar to your complete airbrushing of British Northern Irelanders.

  • Henry94

    Louise Michel

    What the Good Friday Agreement brought is a temporary end to political killing in Ireland—it resolved nothing and therefore a return to war at some point is an inevitability.

    If you can’t accept an Agreement with the kind of support the GFA has on the island then you situate yourself outside any reasonable definition of democracy.

    Andrew put it well when he talked of the shiver down the spine we felt from this. But as the dust settles it’s seems to me that those involved have made a serious misjudgment.

    They had been written of as fools but now they are seen as a threat to everything the people have worked for voted for and are committed to.

    The political will to crush the rira and anybody else who threatens the peace exists within nationalist Ireland this morning. Sinn Fein Fianna Fail and the SDLP will be hearing the same message from the people. No going back.

  • It was Sammy Mc Nally what done it

    Andrew,

    “Anyone with a moral bone in their body would have been shocked at last night’s horrific events.”

    Are you also regularly shocked and horrified at the enormous death toll in the theatres of war in which these soldiers operate and where they dont even bother to count the civilian casualties?

    Difficult as it is for everyone we need to start understanding that what happens outside of our own immediate field of vision and to those outside of our own immediate tribe is just as shocking and horrific for someone else.

    This point does not seek to diminish the terrible suffering for the families involved in Antrim but rather serve to remind those (like the British in Iraq) who are far too quick to involve themselves recklessly and irresponsibly in foreign wars just what dreadful violence they are visiting on thse countries.

  • Max

    Well said Andrew. This is a real opportunity for the Republican/ Nationalist community to stand up to these cowards.

    If things are not to escalate, as this group clearly hope, then it is that community that needs to take a stand. If they are honest about seeking peace and mutual progress by non violent means, then here is your chance.

  • Democratic

    You forgot to condemn the republican murderers of the soldiers yesterday Sammy – an oversight perhaps?
    Does a residual sympathy for political murder still exist in the Nationalist community in Northern Ireland in the year 2009 – hopefully not and hopefully a couple of the voices on this thread are very much in the minority….

  • Mack

    Let’s not forget the two minimum wage Pizza Delivery Men either.

    Some workers paradise these muppets are ‘building’…

  • It was Sammy Mc Nally what done it

    Democratic,

    A discussion of the political implications of an event should not be incorrectly construed as support for it – I hope like me, you and Andrew can condemn the shocking killings in Antrim and also the shocking killing by British forces of the thousands and thousands of innocent civilians in Iraq in a reckless, illegal war.

    I hope you dont go all quiet on me now after all that self-righteousness.

  • Dave

    I think Henry84 is close to the mark. What is different this time around is that the legitimacy of British sovereignty is no longer disputed by a majority of the nationalist community in Northern Ireland. They now accept post-GFA that Northern Ireland has a right to self-determination and that it is therefore a separate state with a separate nation. That makes them de facto unionists who may still regard themselves as culturally a part of the Irish nation but who do not have a right to national self-determination as part of it, being subject to the veto of another nation and its supporting sovereign state. There is “no going back” from that profound shift. So, whereas before these attacks would have been seen by them as an attack on a foreign state, they are now evermore led to see them as an attack on their state, and on them. So you will see the Shinners being used as part of the British security apparatus with the increasing support of those Northern Irish folks. Will you still have attacks from those who do not regard British rule in Ireland as being legitimate and who will not cooperate with it, but it won’t be on anything like the scale it was before.

  • Democratic

    No Sammy – I do no support for the murder of thousands and thousands of innocent civilians in Afganistan either – Indeed I condemn it! – I don’t believe this needs elaborated upon any further.

    What about yourself Sammy – I realise that the “examination of the political implications” of the killings in Antrim are not the same as support of them – that being said this is not the same as condemning the incident either – anything further to add perhaps?

  • Harry Flashman

    Have British forces in Iraq killed “thousands and thousands of innocent civilians”? It’s news to me and 99.9% of the rest of the world.

  • Mack

    Dave

    They now accept post-GFA that Northern Ireland has a right to self-determination and that it is therefore a separate state with a separate nation

    In reality that decision was made by Michael Collins, Arthur Griffith et al and ratified by Dáil Éireann in 1921. Ever since then nationalists, a minority in a pro-British territory, were effectively in denial about their position. The Agreement made that reality liveable for northern nationalists. And affording self-determination to Northern Ireland, of itself, in no-way makes a person a Unionist. In fact there is agreement on the mechanism by which constitutional change can be achieved.

    Which makes these attacks all the more senseless. What are these people trying to achieve? Do they really think that the British will walk out on an area with a pro-British majority? The absolute best they can achieve is repartition, and that could be achieved with no loss of life through negogiation and electioneering.

  • skullion

    Max,Andrew,Henry

    What is it you would have the nationalist community do?Every single nationalist and indeed republicans i have spoken to have been horrified by what happened in Antrim.And by the way Democratic it seems to be unionists on the various threads since saturday night who are advocating violence.

  • Mack

    Harry Flashman

    I don’t think it’s relevant to what happened at the weekend but.. Washington Post in 2004, 100,000 civilian deaths due to US invasion.

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A7967-2004Oct28.html

  • It was Sammy Mc Nally what done it

    Democratic,

    “I hope like me, you and Andrew can condemn the shocking killings in Antrim ”

    have you not seen the sentence above?

  • Democratic

    Fair enough Sammy – play on….
    Skullion: If any Unionists advocate violence as a response to these killings then that will only be playing into the hands of the Republican extremists responsible…..this is not an option and will be seen as such by all reasonable people. I am confident that the security forces will apprehend these people in short order – hopefully however such a development will be as welcome in Nationalists districts as it will be in the Unionists’.

  • skullion

    DEMOCRATIC

    Of course the apprehension of these killers would be welcolme in nationalist areas.What wouldn’t be welome would be the murder of these people by british forces which seems to be the course of action agreeable to many unionists.

  • Harry Flashman

    Mack so that’s 200,000 people killed since the US invasion, including Iraqi troops, Coalition troops, and insurgents, and most of the dead were killed by the insurgents.

    Hmmm, we’re well short of the “thousands and thousands” of innocent civilians killed by British troops.

    So it’s just a stupid and nonsensical claim then is it, of no relevance whatsoever to the events in Antrim?

  • Mack

    Harry (or Sammy McNally ), yes. How is the Iraq war in anyway relevant to what happened at Antrim?

    Hmmm, we’re well short of the “thousands and thousands” of innocent civilians killed by British troops.

    Smallish numbers can be classified by thousands and thousands. Let’s say 3,000. If a state invades another sovereign state and that invasion results in large scale loss of life then that state must bear responsibility for that. There was certainly massive loss of civilian life in Iraq. Huge numbers of people who would be alive today had the invasion not occured.

    What you would hope is that they had a damn good reason for going to war and inflicting that damage. For me personally, in Iraq, I just don’t see it (Afghanistan is an entirely different matter, imo). Not least because the initial justification was largely based on information that turned out to be lies.

  • It was Sammy Mc Nally what done it

    ‘arry,

    We are exploring here the politics of condemnation and it is reasonable to question if those who wish to rightly condemn the events in Antrim are as quick to condemn those killings which are atributed to their own tribe.

    What do you think those wonderfully brave fellows in their flying machines drop on civilian areas? You reckon those cluster bombs which the RAF are so keen on improve the general health of the Irqai population?

  • Harry Flashman

    No Sammy you are factually incorrect, “thousands and thousands” of innocent civilians have NOT been killed in Iraq by British forces, I will repeat that; “thousands and thousands” of innocent civilians have NOT been killed in Iraq by British forces, so it is shameful of you to make such an utterly untrue statement in relation to the dreadful incident in Antrim.

    Your statement was wrong and was completely irrelevant, but then you knew that anyway.

  • Smug O’ Toole

    What the flippin’ feck has Iraq got to do with this? Let’s just call a spade a spade and leave the if’s buts and whataboutry at the door. The ROI is not at war with the UK, NI is not at war with Britain and the c**ts who did this are nothing more than uneducated, backward knakers from some s*ithole estate, who probably collect their dole money from the British state before they go and get their giggles firing at bottles in a field. They have no mandate or support to do this so they are murdering scum. End of.

    I only heard about this this morning when I got up and was saddened, but not shocked. The RIRA have been winding themselves up on special brew, singing rebel songs and acting out their favourite scenes in the Deer hunter using unloaded guns for some time. Their statement said that the Pizza delivery guy also deserved to be shot for ‘collaborating with the enemy’. Somehow, I don’t think the nazi’s temporarily conquered Europe by dialling for an 18″ pepperoni supreme (I know I just enacted Godwins law, but it would have probably gone that way eventually).

    It will be interesting to see what comes out of this. What should happen is that all pro-agreement parties should put any petty bickering aside and put out a united front and get all their voters behind them. History has shown that political vacuums are detrimental to NI’s society and the fall of Stormont and such a vacuum in these most economically turbulent of times would be just what a shower of ideologically twisted murdering bastids would want.
    Unionists and Nationalists should see this as an opportunity to find common ground against those who want to pull NI back to the recent dark ages kicking and screaming, with a bag over it’s head.

  • Max

    To answer ‘ ‘s question, Republicans/ nationalists who know something about the people behind this need to give the murderers up. Let’s face it someone will have a good idea of who is involved or gave them support. Not easy but the next step this country needs. Let’s put these loosers to the test of a court.

    Anyone who thinks what happened on Saturday requires a Loyalist reposnse is wrong.

  • ??

    its time to go after these republican scum and not stop until they are all exterminated

  • ??

    They have no mandate or support to do this so they are murdering scum. End of. ………….

    so if they had a mandate or support then they wouldnt be murdering scum?????????

  • yo

    ‘Anyone with a moral bone in their body would have been shocked at last night’s horrific events’
    quote from blogger.

    I condemn these attacks.
    But I do not have a morale bone in my body.
    IT goes on and on and on.ye morale skined so and so and so…..

  • T.R.o.H.V.M

    All this can be traced back to a certain colonial superiority mentality which refused to acknowledge the will of the irish people.

  • Gregory

    “If you can’t accept an Agreement with the kind of support the GFA has on the island then you situate yourself outside any reasonable definition of democracy.”

    That is a ridiculous thin to say. The GFA was a dog’s breakfast, to oppose it, is perfectly respectable.

    The GFA was in many respects the antithesis of authentic (post-colonial) democracy.

    It was a mechanism, and a flawed one, as it has turned out.

    Having said that, it is there, and to be honest, majority rule would be acceptable to me at this point.

    Or direct rule, The GFA is just there, it is not the bible or anything.

    A ‘nicer’ Orange junta, would be just fine, as alleged democracy within the ‘Six Counties’.

    The GFA was an attempt to get the disagreeing to agree, and if it was ‘democracy’ it was of a peculiar blend.

    A compromise for sure, that’s often a good thing.

  • Pancho’s Horse

    To view the thing objectively, then, if you put your country’s soldiers into someone else’s country – especially a country where their record is anything but lily white and where their presence has always been violently opposed – you’re bound to have bodybags coming home.

  • Reader

    Pancho’s Horse: To view the thing objectively, then, if you put your country’s soldiers into someone else’s country – especially a country where their record is anything but lily white and where their presence has always been violently opposed – you’re bound to have bodybags coming home.
    The presence of the army is symbolic. If the army wasn’t there, there still wouldn’t be a United Ireland, the dissidents would still be killing people, and you might finally recognise their mentality for what it is.