Whilst I’ve noted that some have already suggested we might be looking at something similar to the IRA campaign in the 1950s, at the Guardian’s Politics Blog Henry McDonald has another suggested comparison.
Eta’s current nihilistic campaign probably provides an even better comparison. We may in fact have to accept that just as Spain and the Basque country will be shaken occasionally by the odd Eta outrage the same goes for Northern Ireland and extremist republican groups. Basque nationalism has actually enjoyed more compromises from the Spanish state in the areas of language, culture and devolved power than Irish nationalists experience presently under their own devolved settlement. But for those in Euskadi who dream of an independent UN-recognised state straddling the Pyrenees the struggle must go on. And just as the uncompromising Etarras (militants) will continue with their futile terror, so too will an eternally insolent minority on the republican fringe.
The Provisional IRA fought for almost 30 years to drive the British presence out of Northern Ireland by force of arms and they failed. They did so because they had to learn the slow and hard way that the “British presence” was in essence those in the north-east corner of the island who wanted to remain within the UK. The Provisionals have thus turned from enforcers of a united Ireland into persuaders. Those running and those executing this renewed armed campaign will also fail to realise their goal. Yet it would be a mistake to fall into the postmodern trap of dismissing the importance of ideology as a motivating factor for this present bout of murder and misery that most people on the island never wanted and hoped was finally behind them.
Of course, leaving aside the discussion on ideology, neither comparison will be comfortable for Sinn Féin..