Take care with the follow up – and ease up on Sinn Fein

In the Irish Times Frank Millar noted the abiding area of controversy about policing, that the shock of the murders may have temporarily buried – the earlier deployment of special forces

“Labour and the Conservatives combined at Westminster yesterday to affirm their support for “the operational independence” of the Chief Constable of the PSNI, and to assert this would be in no way diminished by the devolution of policing and justice powers to the Stormont Assembly….He will, if he sees fit, enjoy the same rights as any other Chief Constable in the UK to request further technical backup if so needed.”

Should the security guards have opened fire? How great was MI5’s failure and what does it say about the prospects for catching the killers? All of us are back in our old roles as armchair generals as well as ideological analysts. There seems to be a consensus that mass swoops are not the answer. While Woodward will be commended for upholding the limited military back-up role, I’m sure of one thing : that in their response so far, Sinn Fein have stepped up to the plate. Taunting them any further with their supposed inadequacies won’t help. I have my own reservations about Jonathan Powell, but Tony Blair’s former chief of staff who formed something of a friendship with Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness. is surely right, writing in the Guardian.

“The only thing that could change the emptiness of these acts is the way in which we react. What turned the Easter Rising in 1916 into a mass movement for independence in Ireland was the reaction of the British government. The bloody way in which it was suppressed, the mass imprisonment of innocent people and the imposition of conscription helped propel the Irish nation into opposition and spelled the end for constitutional nationalism. It is always the repression of terrorists that leads to sympathy and support for them. And terrorists know that provocation will work.

The leaders of Sinn Féin will have a difficult task. They have to keep the Republican movement unified. They must condemn the murders as they have done, and they must call for justice, but we should not make their task more difficult by jumping up and down on their historic sensibilities. This is a time for people to pull together, rather than trying to reintroduce old divisions.”

Former BBC journalist and manager in Belfast, Manchester and London, Editor Spolight; Political Editor BBC NI; Current Affairs Commissioning editor BBC Radio 4; Editor Political and Parliamentary Programmes, BBC Westminster; former London Editor Belfast Telegraph. Hon Senior Research Fellow, The Constitution Unit, Univ Coll. London