One of things you learn growing up in the Troubles is that you cannot negotiate with a man with gun or a block of Semtex (more commonly gelignite in the early days) in hand. One to one, he wins every time. As Brian argues, physical force is its own argument.
Tragic though it is, the effect of the killing of Constable Kerr appears to be stiffening the resolve of the Stormont parties not to show a millimetre of space between them. As Ken Reid notes, Peter Robinson in particular has been going places you would have struggled to imagine only a few months back:
When you see not just the statement from the GAA the minute’s silence at their game, but also the respect in which that’s minute’s silence was held, it indicates we have support right across the community. [Emphasis added]
Mr Robinson confirmed too that (subject to the funeral of Constable Kerr being open), he would also be attending funeral Mass. If there are critics of Mr Robinson, it is unlikely to have any political force, not least in view of the position Catholic police officers now find themselves in.
Of course that solidarity did not come out of nowhere. During the Trouble, Catholic policemen where few and far between. Sometimes as isolated inside the force as they were from the targeting outside.
It is a testimony to the Patten plan to run 50-50 recruitment that the culture of the Police Service of Northern Ireland has changed out of all recognition.
And they have just received the full backing of the Cardinal, the Bishop of Derry and Raphoe, all the major party leaders and the GAA. This killing has galvanised the full weight of Catholic and Protestant civic society against this ‘dissident Republican’ campaign.
It has also served to to bring to the attention of wider society that Irish Republicans are, probably for the first time since the war of independence, joining the police in sizeable numbers.
That shift in perception may have major implications for the various tribal shibboleths still burdening this small, regional society. Eamonn observes one in his latest ‘Tweet:
Logically nationalist solidarity with PSNI on back of killing of Ronan Kerr should end street confrontation with police in catholic areas.
Note that none of the three ‘dissident’ organisations have claimed the killing, even before the huge public reaction which has followed was in full flow. Perhaps it is time for the ‘dissidents’ to go back to that line about ‘the attitude of the general public’ in Ruairi O’Bradaigh’s statement of February 1962?