Dissident Republicans target ex Police Officer – the third attack in seven days

A booby-trap bomb has been discovered under the car of an ex Police Officer  in Cookstown, County Tyrone.

The device went off as a man drove away from his home in the Sweep Road area of Cookstown. He was not injured in the attack.

The man is a former police officer who currently works as a guard at the town’s PSNI station.

PSNI Chief Supt Michael Skuce said those who planted the bomb had “scant regard” for human life.

It is the third attempted car bomb attack on security personnel in the past seven days. It was the first time one of the devices exploded.

Dissident republicans have been blamed for the attacks.

SDLP MLA Patsy McGlone said a number of homes and a nursery in the Glenavon Gardens area had to be evacuated

“Campaigns of violence and intimidation had no justification in the past and have no justification now,” he said.

Acting chair of the Policing Board, Brian Rea, called on the community to help the police investigation.

He said those responsible had no “concern for the community”.

Firstly well done to Patsy for calling it like it it.

Brian Rea’s comments were interesting and made me wonder if some of our ‘more on the ground’ republican observers may want to comment on the  intel flowing towards the Police regarding these dissidents and their planned ops.

Don’t get me wrong – I’m not saying it’s not happening but I’m wondering what the quality and amount being fed through actually is..

  • Fearglic

    Intel? Didn’t someone say that the dissident groups are heavily infiltrated with British Agents. With all their technology and endless resources it beggars belief that at least some of these attacks aren’t the responsibility of dodgy anti-Agreement Hidden State types.

  • A N Other

    This attack should be seen in the context of the alleged talks, but, as so often on Slugger, the jaundiced eye comes into play, and somebody decides that the most topical of news items is not worth a mention. This highlights the fact that the majority of slugger posts are driven by ego, rather than any sense of objectivity.

    If it is to obtain any sense of credibility a blog, much like a good history book, must be all inclusive.

  • Neil

    PSNI Chief Supt Michael Skuce said those who planted the bomb had “scant regard” for human life.

    I work in software and might do a wee project for a laugh on a statement generator for politicians and PSNI officers. The quote above I’ve heard several times recently, and the cynic inside keeps replying that this must have been one of those bombs that wasn’t touchy feely, and full of hugs and kisses.

    In the same vein as the politicians talking about well, anything really, but the parades legislation comes to mind. Blah blah support of the entire community blah blah endorsed by the vast majority blah blah moved on etc. Pure bullshit.

  • observing

    Tuesday called, it wants its story back.

    Man charged in connection with Derry bomb. That should be today’s thread – the story has moved on.

  • Damian O’Loan

    The only solution to those suspicions is for MI5 to have effective oversight.

    Something the DUP/SF oppose.

  • drumlins rock

    why dont you run the comments on here through your “generator” too, I’m sure you will find a few repeats of your own statements.
    The polcie in particular have to be careful whats statements they make as it could “influnce” any future trials, or more likely give a slippy barrister a chance to get them of on a technicallity.

  • Neil


    A bomber with scant regard for human life? Gee ya don’t say. It’s a redundant and pointless statement.

    why dont you run the comments on here through your “generator” too, I’m sure you will find a few repeats of your own statements.

    Much like many people I’d imagine. Like yourself and all the pish you posted about the UCUNF, repetitively telling us about how the landscape had changed, how your party of choice would have a hot line to the government of the day. Repetitive and amusingly wrong – amusing because there was a slight possibility of Labour getting in, it didn’t even enter your wee head that the UUs would be rejected, and end up with a big fat zero seats. LOL.

  • Johnny Boy

    The scale of most of the individual attacks so far has been small, it follows that the amount of individuals with specific info on the attacks is also small, making it more difficult for the security forces.

  • Greenflag

    The question is have any of these would be murderers been arrested yet and if not why not . The sooner these people are behind bars the better for everybody in NI .

  • insider

    ummm..two have been arrested for the 3rd August car bomb.
    One of them got remanded today.

  • JJ malloy

    If the cells involved in these attacks are very small and independent of each other, infiltration would be difficult.

  • I only hope when these bastards are caught they do not have the brass gall to demand to be treated as political prisoners!

    If the dissidents murder or maim an Irish person of whichever religion, they should be treated as the unprincipled trash they are. You cannot demand a United Ireland and murder or maim Irish people. It is a contradiction! The days when such ridiculous excuses worked are long gone.

    As for who knows what. I hope no one thinks the Brits would risk a valuable tool to save a life…

  • tacapall

    Pippakin no point in taking a Gerry Fitt. Now that they have successfully negoitated with the British government about prisoners then they will also do so about political matters in the future.

  • tacapall

    The Brits dont care either way. To think they care how many visitors a prisoner has, or whether or when he washes. Do you think they care? There are a few prisoners I regard as political and they deserve the status. The others?

    I suspect the Brits know a great deal more than we think and they will not risk compromising their informants, after all some of the suspected previous informants have been very successful!

    Good to hear from you. Gerry Fitt was ok, whats wrong with working for peace? the house of lords pays well, and remember not all of us have ill gotten gains to retire on…I could fall asleep on a bench in the lords for a small fee.

  • socaire

    What happens if they murder a British person?

  • socaire!

    Dont get technical with me.

    And there is still the small matter of an apology..

  • socaire

    So small that it has paled into insignificance. The best I can say is that it’s not your fault. The twee camp follower’s sayings gush out uncontrollably.

  • socaire!

    I know its not my fault, but I better not find out Im the ‘twee camp follower’!

    Lesson 101: Never be the last on the band wagon. Not only can you not get a seat, you are the one remembered…

  • Munsterview

    Who says that MI5 do not have operational oversight ?

    It takes a certain amount of planning and ingenuity to get a bomb placed under an officers car, in fact it is over 90% of the operation over once the bomb is delivered and placed at the selected target, that only the safe return to base to be accomplished.

    Given what is involved in such a mission, is it credible that there could be a continuing series of successful placing of bombs with equally continual critical failure to achieve a successful outcome in terms of a detonation causing injuries or death as is presumably the intent of these missions ?

    Either those involved in these bombings are ‘pulling their punches’ satisfied with the non lethal impact of their activity, or somewhere along the organizational chain there is someone ensuring build in failure !

    If Brit Intel successfully infiltrated and compromised the IRA’s own internal security Dep. to the extent they did, prior to the ceasefire, when that organization was fully operational, it is most unlikely that they are now sitting back twirling their thumbs! In fact it beggars belief to think that they are not other than up to their necks the in contunuing paramillitary activity!

    The questions that then arise have little to do with the success or otherwise of the bombers getting through……to paraphrase Baldwin in the early 1930’s……. ” The bomber will always get through…..” rather it is who is running the operational agenda and what precisely are the objectives of it ?

    This should be the primary focus…… if this activity is fully exposed and dissected, I and others of like vintage that I have discussed these issues with in the recent past, suspect that there may be a dramatic fall off on the bombings to the extent that the activity could totally cease!

  • Munsterview

    Bad day Pip ?

  • MV

    Not a bit! I finally decided to go for the full Heritage course, archeology and all. The poor knees are trembling at the thought!

    Iocaire! is an old, armour plated, adversary. I do my poor, insignificant best to ‘fire’ through the cracks.

    Good comment above. I think (hope) you are right about the ‘failed’ bombings. Its as much, and arguably better PR whether it goes off or not. Not sure the Brits would go as far as corrupting the bomb though. It would work once, but twice would put their ‘operative’ at risk, and they would not put their operative at risk!

  • Munsterview

    Congrads with the heritage etc……go for it!

    As to what the Brits would do or not do, we may have slightly different perspectives on that!

    What I wonder do the late Dr Kelly’s family think now as to how far the Brit Intel will go ?

    How many unnecessary deaths in the Mid-East, in Afghanistan and how many other places where history, Brit interests and Risen peoples aspiration intersected and became a living hell for a period before history moved on to again contain the same conditions elsewhere ?

    A few deaths more or less in Ireland at this time is small potatoes, very small potatoes indeed!

  • MV

    Thanks, completely agree re Brits but you have to think where this is happening and the Brits are past masters at sacrificing the many to keep a secret…

    Hutton enquiry is completely discredited. I hope Hutton thinks it was worth his entire career forsaken and integrity discredited. Bliar and his gang should be charged with war crimes and probably treason. If it can be discovered who killed Dr Kelly the person/s should be charged with murder.

    Remember Bliar took the Brits to war, not for Britain, for the US. He is

  • mark

    When Dr Kelly was found dead , it was obvious he was taken out. It was so bold and brass that they got away with it. It’s amazing it has taken this long for people to start asking questions.

  • Munsterview

    Not really that amazing!

    Most serious journalist ‘that really know what is happening’ is every bit as embedded in the political system and establishment as their security counterparts are in the military. These cynics are not going to bite the hands that feed.

    In the words of Upton Sinclair…… ” It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends on he not understanding it…..” Then there is the implicit ‘ Kelly to day could be you to-morrow if you peruse this’ and who gives a s*** anyway!

    What about the Northern Ireland journalist that could not be frightened off and consequently was executed ? Do you think that the message of his killing did not register ?

    Are you aware that some Southern Irish journalists are armed and carrying when going about their daily work ? How far do you think they can poke the State before the stream of Garda Intel dries up regarding possible danger to them from the ‘underworld’ or ‘problems’ arise with their gun permits ?

    This is the real world, Big Boys rules O’K !

    What effect do you think this has on their choice of stories or how far will go with an ‘exposure’ ?

  • Alias

    A popular line is to lament about the loss of one’s career (as a qualifed dole-claimer) and one’s youth to a long custodial sentence. Another popular line is lament the loss of an Irish life by another Irish life. Admittedly, the PSNI don’t do that particular lament for ethnic reasons – the NIO passes that particular line to the Irish politicos to disseminate. There’s a few dozen standard issue NIO lines that you could add to your JavaScript random sentence generator.

  • socaire!

    MV reminds me I was less than honest:

    There is of course no need to apologise. I was as bad as anyone. But I hope you had a hangover, and I hope it hurt!

  • Munsterview

    Just how difficult can it be to identify and arrest a dwarf active service unit?

  • socaire

    Ní ólaim, ach uisce.

  • Munsterview


    Today yet again we had one section of the population march under the protection of the security forces to celeberate their victory in a war that led to the disposessing of the native Irish from the remainder of their lands, the denial of their rights to religion, education etc.and their reduction into virtual slavery for the next century and a half.

    To but this in perspective it would be equivlend of the descendends of slave ship captains and crews marching through harlem and insisting they were celebrating the sailing exploits of their ansestors and that the slavery issue was incidental to this and not an issue!

    Imagine the the discussion on the tv channells if this group also insisted that the Black Americans should not only tolerate this but be part of their celebration since it involved their heritage too!

    The odd bomb of other act of armed force while this phase of history ends is very mild compared to what it could be, it should bee seen for what it is just another outworking of the ‘fag end of Empire ‘ on one of its last frontiers.

  • spige

    The dissidents have finally found their level, injuring kids in a no-warning bomb attack. Well done lads!

  • vanhelsing

    Interesting in the time it took us to get to 28 comments the dissidents have set off another device in Lurgan. Sounds like those children were indeed lucky to get away with their lives.

    When I posted said thread I was hoping for comment on how CIRA/RIRA have so ‘successfully’ mounted said campaign this week and why aren’t some of the old brigage being ‘a bit more helpful’ and touting them?

    Surely it is to SFs electoral advantage to ‘sort em out’ as we might say in NI – or is it?

  • vanhelsing

    Not sure how this thread is ‘not inclusive’…it highlights an important news item and ingenders debate…?

  • Glencoppagagh

    Van Helsing
    ‘Surely it is to SFs electoral advantage to ‘sort em out’ as we might say in NI – or is it?’

    Violence or even just the realistic threat of it could prove to be a handy bargaining chip when it comes to resisting public expenditure cuts.
    I’m sure SF will exploit it and the DUP will tag along quite happily.

  • Munsterview

    Ah A…..real politics at last !

  • West Sider

    Bombs in schools – on the anniversary of Omagh.

    Kids injured, lucky not to be killed.

    Are there any supporters or apologists on tonight? Rusty Nail? AR? Anyone.

    Where do they stand on planting bombs in schools near where children play?

    Are the dissies really listening to the community as RN said in another post? What is RN response to this? Is it only okay if it is other people’s kids?

  • West Sider

    ADDS: surely this deserves its own blog on Slugger, or is PB waiting for the SF statement on it so he can take it from there?

  • Socaire!

    This is not reassuring. I have the excuse of a grape or three. Not much I know but better than nothing.

  • MV

    Can you not see the victory and the irony in the protection the marchers needed. In order to ‘celebrate’ their victory? If they were part of a UI I believe the parades would still take place.

    There was a time the flag of the confederacy was banned. It is still there and the vast majority of people recognise that it stood for a great deal more than slavery.

  • alan56

    The Lurgan bomb today is a worrying reminder that political argument has its limits. It seems there are some who simply do not want to or cannot engage.

  • Alan Maskey

    A British bomb disposal expert once wrote a book about bombs having no targets. The problem for the dissidents, like PIRA before them is they have to use them to continue their war of the flea.LIke PIRA before them, this leads to all kinds of problesm with collateral physical and propaganda damage. Though the Yanks don’t seem to care how many they murder, Irish dissidents should pack away their explosives and do something more constructive with their time. As the Provos proved on far too many occasions, bombs are just accidents waiting to happen.

  • Another day another bomb. Im sure the various parades taking place over the north were pure coincidence.

    OK it was a weekend and children were not at school. Im sure the dissidents knew that as much as anyone, but there is something disgusting in placing a bomb where children would ordinarily be, the threat is obvious, and it is not being made to adults.

  • Munsterview

    On this post agreed, I have been consistently making more or less the same point as a reason why the military campaign had run it’s course for the Provos.

    Small scale activity like this will however capture big headlines in these Islands, the States and elsewhere in the world. While they do they have achieved part of their objective.

    Ultimately this activity can never be stopped. Baldwin in his observation that ‘the bomber will always get through’ made almost a century ago, accepted that reality from a security perspective.

    It is only when the volume of condemnation and disassociation by far outweigh any possible benefits for organizations that these organizations will refrain from from counter productive activity.

    Such a reaction can only come from a population that perceive an attack against the State as an attack against their interests also. In the optimism and good will that followed the first cease fire, the Unionists blew any chance of that by insisting in humiliation after humiliation be visited on the Nationalists as hoop after hoop was produced for republicans to jump through.

    The Unionists had their hollow victory, the GFA was husked until as I have said elsewhere Gerry Adams and the leadership were seen to be left without the ‘proverbial pot to piss in’ by the Nationalist / Republican community as a whole.

    Then we got the St Andrews agreement and Gregory Campbell and Sammy Wilson et all reveling in every parliamentary opportunity to stymie and humiliate Sinn Fein.

    The majority of the Nationalist / Republican community may not support the support the activities of the small groups involved in armed resistance but these communities are a long, long way indeed from perceiving attacks on state forces as an attack on ‘their State’

    This situation may change somewhat when Sinn Fein achieves their fore-coming majority but I will not bring a sea-change in attitudes needed to end ambivalent attitudes to the State. All those in their teens at the time of the cease fire have seen for half their life’s is Unionist begrudger and lack of generosity towards anything to do with Nationalism, the promotion of Irish Language being a typical example.

    These, now coming into their thirties, are the the next generation of Leaders and society decision makers. Few have any positive attitudes towards Stormount and increasingly this group are looking at a post Stormount reality. Meanwhile militant activity is likely continue to that day !

  • vanhelsing


    Virtual slavery? come on…

    What would you have us do MV redraw the map of europe / world back to pre C17? Or perhaps you would blame the Normans in the C12 🙂

    Ps don’t the ‘Apprentice boys’ celebrate the breaking of a Jacobite seige…

  • vanhelsing

    Hmm interesting – having the dissidents gives SF an extremist force on their left flank – presents them as moderates to those in their teens and twenties…

  • vanhelsing

    MV – you know for sure they’re dwarfs – my sources told me they were gnomes…

  • Pigeon Toes

    ” but there is something disgusting in placing a bomb where children would ordinarily be, the threat is obvious, and it is not being made to adults”


  • vanhelsing

    Can I suggest you add an update to this thread to include the attempted murder of children.

  • Pigeon Toes

    Is it so difficult to understand? I said the people who placed the bomb were, apparently, unconcerned that children might be among or all of the victims. I find that disgusting.

  • Munsterview


    It also included actual slavery, in fact all what later became common British international slavery practices were first undertaken in Ireland. The numbers enslaved from this island and sold into slavery in the new world are in excess of a half million.

    This subject come up ever so often, last time it was Joe C, I am challenged on it, I provide the references and there is no further mention of the subject. Either the posters are not bothering to read or do not like what they find and are too embarrassed to publicly explore the matter in any more detail.

    There could not be much of a reconciliation between Germany and the rest of German occupied Europe is the war crimes of the German occupation were constantly denied.

    This is not what-aboutry, it is about historical fact. It is indeed ironic that I can discuss these things with my English academic friends who are avidly interested in the outworking of the then embryonic British empire while here such insights into history here but draw the usual naff comments!

    When ones extended family is reduced from a few hundreds square Kilometers of some of the best land in Ireland to refugees and a few hundred acres of bogland in another county, such details do become an intrinsic part of family history!

  • Pigeon Toes

    So it would be all right to place a bomb that might have killed their parents?

  • MV

    Surely the slavery aspect happened at a time when slavery was the norm. Its easy to forget the Brits were slaves too, and in fact the authorities of the time had no trouble enslaving British subjects, they just sent them abroad. Its how much of the new world was populated.

  • Pigeon Toes

    No! of course not, which is why I believe such would be murderers should be denied the ‘satisfaction’ of political status when/if they are caught.

  • Munsterview


    here we go again !

    Over the last four plus decades I have met hundreds of left wing English activists. In discussions they had no difficulty in discussing what the Belgians did in the Congo or the French in Indo China but when it came to the good old UK record then the’if’ the ‘buts’ and the and the qualifications and excuses start.

    There were reasons why they were in India, Burma was different to what the Dutch were going and of course Gibraltar was part of Britain not Spain!

    And of course none none better than the East Enders to rally round the flag, after all during the high point of Empire Cockneys provided a good portion of the officer class for the British Army.

    Pip the slavery issue happened in Ireland and the ethnic cleansing was inexcusable period and cannot be qualified or made proportionate. It happened and the fact that most of the current studies arise from collateral study so to speak as newly emergent African nations or Native African Americans studying slavery have to start with Irish events to get a handle on the origins of British International slavery speaks for itself.

  • Munsterview

    Worked for the SDLP, they got two good decades out of it!

  • MV

    That completely excludes the norms of the times! Im not excusing what the Brits did, I am saying it has to be looked at in the whole. You cannot isolate a slice of history from the time it happened.

    These islands have been invaded and the occupants defeated and enslaved time without number, that is all the nationalities of these islands including England, thats all Im saying. Im not excusing it and it has nothing to do with the east end!

    Your comment read as though you actually think slavery started with the Brits enslaving the Irish. How exclusive of you! the Brits were not selective and nor were the ones before them.

  • mark

    well Dr Kelly did predict that he would be found dead in the woods. I don’t think it’s up for question. If you get in the way , you go down. To qoute AL Pacino in Godfather 2 ( don’t know any of Upton Sinclair’s films haha) ” History has taught us that anybody can be killed.

  • socaire

    We were very lucky. A troup of Girl Guides or a pensioner’s bus could have been passing at that moment and think of the carnage. Think back 40 years. Same old shit from same old shits. New name – new uniform – same aim.

  • socaire

    you definitely have your finger on the pulse of political thought, don’t you?

  • socaire!

    You are up late, and with a glass of water in hand I expect. My finger on the pulse of political thought? I am firmly anti violence of any kind and from anyone.

  • Munsterview

    “………Your comment read as though you actually think slavery started with the Brits enslaving the Irish. How exclusive of you! the Brits were not selective and nor were the ones before them……”

    Wrong : slavery is as old as humanity itself and is still going on in various parts of the world and what is more, it is tolerated.

    All these studies of newly emerged African Nation academics cannot be wrong.

    I only point out what they do; that slavery in the modern era, i.e. during the Elizabeth the 1st, reign and after that escalated into a vast English and financed based international economic trading enterprise, started in England with Ireland providing the bulk of the first sourced slaves for the export market.

    google ‘black irish + slavery and see what you get? or slavery + Irish etc.

    In the height of the Women’s Hunger Strike in Armagh Prison I was addressing an after mass meeting in a afternoon, it was raining heavy and the people were ready to run for their cars. I has seconds to hold them, I pointed to the surrounding hillsides naming natives who had been transported……relatives and neighbors of another generation of some there.

    The crowd stayed and listened. When I got home among my post was a book from Aussie friends and the first on it was about a visit of the poet to Van Demins Land prison ruins …..’ where the ghosts were beyond recall………sun had burned and winds scoured clean’

    Hours earlier I had invoked a litany of these same ghosts that were a living essence in the community that they were plucked from to give continuity and legitimacy to the struggle of our current brave political prisoners up against the same abusive system.

    Guess it is all a matter of perspective !

  • MV

    But that is the thing! There was no end to slavery. It did not end prior to and restart in the Elizabethan era.

    The so called modern era slavery does not exist, there was and is just slavery.

    Im not excusing it. I am saying the Brits did not discriminate in those they abused, but to be fair to them I also say nor did any other empire.

  • Munsterview


    One more last try on this, pre the reign of Elizebth the first the involvement of Western Europe in slavery was low key and minimum. The Cromwellian wars in Ireland produced a situation where white slavery became a accepted State sanctioned commercial excercise in which England pioneered every aspect to the methodology used.

    The infrastructure, finanancing and metholodogys used in Ireland were then transferred to an African contex with human beings one of the most valuable international trading commodities then available.

    The historical record speaks for itself and the part England played in the rise of Slavery, and the British control and monoplising of slave trafficing just as it do the part the Royal Navy played in ending the practice. It was however so ingrained into the English establishment that an Anglican Bishop owned two hundred slaves and was one of the most outspoken advocates against attempts to end the practice.

  • MV

    The Brits industrialised slavery but then they inustrialised almost everything, and yes we were almost certainly their first large scale efforts. The difference between us is I dont believe they cared what nationality we were, they thought of us as the ‘enemy’ and be fair, they were right!

    Of course the bloody bishop had hundreds of slaves! in Ireland they had them right up until a about ten years ago, Its all about power, and here they had everyone by the short and curly’s with government assistance.

    Im not praising the Brits I dont think they stopped slavery, as far as they could, because it was inhuman and degrading. treatment. I think they stopped it because it was uneconomic.

    In all the talk about the Brits oppressing the Irish, which I completely agree with, the reason why is usually lumped as anti Irish. I disagree with that. Ok it shames them, but it does us no favours either. It completely ignores the fact that the Irish were the Brits greatest enemy and political graveyard for centuries! I think that is a considerable achievement and one which is often lost in the rush for victimhood. How can we be victims if we were successful enemies of the greatest empire of its time.

  • Munsterview

    “………Im not praising the Brits I dont think they stopped slavery, as far as they could, because it was inhuman and degrading. treatment. I think they stopped it because it was uneconomic……..”

    Interesting you should raise this….. the records show that several attempts were made from West Indian interests to halt the continuing white slavery as the supply of most Irish was so cheap and expendable that Irish slaves were depressing the slave market generally and they wanted it stopped.

    Likewise various laws were brought in to stop breeding programs for ‘white slaves’ as again it was devaluing the black slave commodity. So plentifully and cheap were the Irish Catholic slaves that, like Nazi slaves in the WW2 camps they were literally worked to death and replaced while their African counterparts were regarded as an investment to be cared for.

    Another interesting historical footnote : The first recorded Irishman in South Africa was over 6′ 4″ and built in proportion. He was in the employment of a Dutchman……. as a stud in a slave breeding enterprise.! Surprisingly I have yet to find a mention of him in the Roman Catholic records of the early whites in South Africa.

    One of this days I must do an article on him for one of the Missionary Magazines!

    Incidently it appears we have yet another usual ‘drop out’ from this exchange by ‘Van the Man’ when the subject matter starts to cut a bit too close to the bone……. it will take more than a few cloves of garlic or a bang on a lambeg to make this go away you know!

  • HeinzGuderian

    Posted by ‘fluffy’ earlier on the BBC TB MB………………Read it carefully. Digest it. Understand why Unionists will contemplate a UI !!! 🙁


    Fintan O’Toole
    On the last Sunday in July, Darren Graham took off his shirt and walked across the pitch to the dressing-room. He had been playing Gaelic football for Lisnaskea Emmets, his local team in County Fermanagh, against a team from nearby Brookeborough, when someone from the opposing team called him a ‘black c###’. ‘Black’, in this case, was a reference not to the colour of his skin but to his religion. It is short for ‘Black Protestant’, a long-standing term of sectarian abuse. ‘It just came to a head,’ he told the Belfast Telegraph. ‘Something bad [was said] on the field: “You’re a black c###.” Then another ran by and said: “It’s the truth, you’re nothing but that.”’ He said that he would not play again unless he received an apology and was convinced that the Gaelic Athletic Association was serious about stamping out sectarianism.

    Few people outside his own area had heard of Darren Graham or indeed of Lisnaskea Emmets, one of hundreds of parish clubs with amateur players. But the GAA is a big deal. Of all the institutions that emerged from the Irish nationalist cultural revival of the 19th century, it is the only one still unequivocally in rude good health. It embodies a sense of Irish identity that is tangible, local and pleasurable. It also embodies the unspoken tension within that identity, for though it is officially non-political and non-sectarian, the GAA is overwhelmingly Catholic. Particularly in Northern Ireland, it is identified almost exclusively with the Catholic and nationalist side of the great divide.

    By going public on the abuse he’s been getting since he was 18 – he is now 25 – Darren Graham pressed on a raw nerve. He exposed the contradictions between the ideals and the realities of a certain kind of Irish identity. And his story therefore got a great deal of media coverage. It followed the usual twists of such narratives: mealy-mouthed statements by the local branch of the GAA, claiming that he had failed to make an official complaint; mutterings from rival players that the abuse was just the normal sledging of opponents; lots of tut-tutting from senior officials; an offer from the president of the GAA to have Darren Graham as his guest at a big game held at the association’s imposing main stadium in Dublin; an eventual apology from the Fermanagh GAA, leading to Graham’s decision to return to the game.

    Somewhere behind the coverage, though, there was a sense of something not being said. Colm Bradley, a GAA footballer and journalist, hinted at it: ‘I have played senior club football in Fermanagh for over a decade and I have been aware that Darren Graham has been on the receiving end of sectarian abuse and I would have guessed that plenty of officialdom knew too. It is actually with a fair degree of shame that I admit knowing and, as a journalist, I should have highlighted this unacceptable behaviour a long time ago.’ Bradley did not go on to explain the silence. Even he was reluctant to say who Darren Graham is and why people know him to be a Protestant. They know because they remember, with the kind of memory that is scarcely distinguishable from amnesia, what the IRA did to Darren Graham’s family.

    They got Ronnie Graham first, while he was delivering coal not far from his own house in Lisnaskea. He was 39. After the killing, the IRA left their guns to be moved by a 13-year-old boy, who had been recruited into its youth wing by a teacher at his school. The teacher was named in court at the boy’s trial, but this aspect of the story is scarcely recalled at all. It is not part of the memory that the IRA recruited child soldiers. Five months later, in November 1981, Ronnie’s younger brother, Cecil, was visiting his wife and their newborn baby at her parents’ house. She was staying there because the baby was premature and needed constant attention. But Cecil’s wife was a Catholic, and the house she was staying in was in Donagh, a nationalist area. Cecil was spotted going into the house. As he left, he was shot 16 times. He was 32. It took them more than three years to get the third Graham brother. They had tried to kill Jimmy in 1980, but he had fought them off, and been given the British Empire Medal. Perhaps his escape had annoyed them, or perhaps, as many Protestants believed, there was a deliberate plan of ethnic cleansing, aimed at wiping out whole families. In any case, he was a soft target now. He left his small farm one morning in February 1985 in the school bus he drove to collect children from a primary school and take them to the local swimming pool. He was parking the bus when they fired the first two shots at him. Then they got into the bus and fired 24 more. They drove away in a blue Escort van that was later found eight miles away in the hills that mark the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic.

    Darren Graham is the premature baby Cecil Graham was visiting when the IRA killed him. He is the embodiment of all the reasons why the idea of ‘two traditions’ – Catholic nationalist and Protestant Unionist – enshrined in the Belfast Agreement is a crude distortion of reality. Darren Graham’s paternal grandfather was a member of the B Specials, the exclusively Protestant and notoriously sectarian part-time constabulary. His father, uncles and aunt (who died young, having never fully recovered from injuries she sustained when a car crashed though a checkpoint she was operating) were part-time members of the Ulster Defence Regiment, the local wing of the British army which replaced the B Specials. This allowed the IRA to justify its assault on the family. But his mother was Catholic and so is his two-year-old daughter.

    Some people who know Darren Graham well have expressed surprise at learning that he is a Protestant. He went to the local state (effectively Protestant) primary school but turned out for the Catholic school’s Gaelic football team from the age of 12. As he got older, it became more obvious that people knew exactly who he was. ‘I got a wee bit of abuse through the ranks at under-14, under-16 and Minors (under-18),’ he told the Fermanagh Herald, ‘but nothing really heavy till I hit the senior ranks. A couple of games, perhaps, somebody would mention something about my father or my uncles, but it wasn’t that really. It was more, “black b#####d” and: “You’re a Protestant, you shouldn’t be playing Gaelic sport.”’

    It is striking that his abusers tended to taunt him as a Protestant rather than as a member of his particular family. What was done to the Grahams left at least some people with a bad conscience, but one that expressed itself only in silence and evasion. Cecil Graham’s Catholic father-in-law told the inquest in 1983 that in the two years since Cecil’s death ‘none of the neighbours had extended sympathy or even mentioned the murder of his son-in-law.’ But the silence belied an unspoken disturbance. Colm Tóibín, in Bad Blood, described walking through the area three years after they killed the third Graham brother. He found that the dead Grahams were seen as uneasy, vengeful spirits. Talking to two young Catholic men in Kinawley, he mentioned the spate of car accidents in the area, in which all the victims seemed to be young Catholic men. ‘People think it’s revenge,’ one of them blurted out. When pushed, they explained that older people believed the accidents were retribution for what was done to the Grahams. ‘God, you know, did I understand? It was God.’ The unspoken guilt transmuted itself into irrational fear, and it is not hard to see how that fear could in turn be channelled into the abuse of Cecil Graham’s son, the offspring of an unforgiving ghost.

    Guilt for the murderous campaign against Border Protestants was kept at bay by the insistence that the victims were UDR men and therefore mere ciphers of British imperialism. The IRA, and the wider Catholic community that has made Sinn Féin its political voice, likes to see the IRA campaign in retrospect as a ‘war’ in the classic sense, a conflict in which soldier was pitted against soldier. While Loyalist paramilitaries killed Catholics out of psychotic sectarian hatred, Republican paramilitaries killed Protestants only because they were, in IRA-speak, ‘part of the imperial war machine’. The formula magics away the inconvenient truth that the murders of UDR men like the Grahams were not military operations, but conducted and experienced as sectarian killings. Most UDR men, like the Grahams, were part-timers, who lived in their communities and worked in ordinary jobs. More than two hundred members or former members of the UDR, and of the Royal Irish Regiment which replaced it, were killed during the Troubles. The vast majority of them – 162 out of 204 – were off-duty at the time. One in five of them, indeed, had actually left the UDR. They were not heavily armed and uniformed combatants, on patrol or manning checkpoints. They were delivering letters, feeding cattle, serving in shops, driving school buses, working on building sites or sitting in their own kitchens or living-rooms.

    Many, like David McQuillan, Winston McCaughey, Ritchie Latimer, Albert Beacom, Robert Bennett, Thomas Loughran and James McFall were with their children when they were attacked. William Gordon’s 10-year-old-daughter, Lesley, and seven-year-old son, Richard, were beside him in the family car when an IRA booby-trap bomb exploded. He and Lesley were killed; Richard was blown out onto the footpath and seriously injured. Tommy Bullock was watching television with his wife when she answered the door to the IRA gunmen who had come for him. They killed her, stepped over her body, then went inside and killed him. Sean Russell’s 10-year-old daughter was injured by the bullets that killed him as they watched television together. Victor Foster’s girlfriend was blinded by the booby-trap bomb that killed him. They were both 18 years old. She left Northern Ireland shortly afterwards, having been repeatedly taunted when she went to the shops in the border town of Strabane. One man asked her the difference between a Twix bar and Victor Foster. When she didn’t answer, he told her that a Twix lasted longer.

    Protestants have been told, rightly, that their religious and political attitudes contributed to the twisted mentalities of the Loyalist killers who murdered Catholics throughout the Troubles. Because those killings were categorised as sectarian, no one could argue with any seriousness that they were not, in some sense, manifestations of a wider bigotry that was itself the product of political, cultural and historical forces. But Catholics have been insulated from the need to confront the same truths by the notion that the UDR men killed by the IRA were only incidentally Protestant. Catholic sectarianism does not need to be confronted because it does not exist. Thus, while Sinn Féin demands – often justly – public inquiries and accountability for the murders of Catholics by Loyalists or the forces of the state, it does not understand why such accountability might apply to itself.

    But people know very well that the sheer cruelty of the murders of the Graham brothers, of Tommy Bullock’s wife and William Gordon’s daughter, and the taunting of Victor Foster’s girlfriend, had little to do with an imperial war machine. It was local, specific and intimate. The dead were neighbours in the small towns and villages of the borderlands. It was the familiarity of their routines, the ease of knowing where they lived and worked, that made them so easy to kill. Most people know, or think they know, who the killers were, even though, in the majority of cases, no one has ever been brought to trial. And the killers and those who cheered them on still mingle with the families of their victims. They can bear it only by keeping alive the notion that what happened was the result of a war, and by imagining that war as a conflict between implacably opposed tribes. Darren Graham restored the intimacy to the Troubles by having, like so many others, affiliations on both sides of the supposedly impermeable divide. He had the temerity to punch through the tribal stereotype by playing Gaelic football and not defining himself simply as a Protestant. It took the hate that dares not speak its name to make him one now.