Saturday, March 14, 2009

Never Again: N. Ireland Rejects The Past

(Photo Credit AFP)
Well you stole it 'cause I needed the cash
And you killed it 'cause I wanted revenge

The killings in N. Ireland over the past few days serve as a grim reminder of the recent past where the IRA and various Loyalist terror outfits ran one of the most contested pieces of land on planet earth - Northern Ireland. It also serves to remind us of the not quite unfinished business of the uneasy detente between the Protestants and Catholics in the province.

The good news of all this, is that if there is one thing both sides of the great divide can agree on: It was wrong. It should not have happened, and there is no public support for more killing.

Even Martin McGuinness, famed enforcer of the IRA came out against the attacks standing (get this) shoulder to shoulder with the N. Irish Police.

The question has to be why now? Why would the paramilitaries choose to assert themselves, when the public backlash was sure to be swift?

Some see the method in the madness. It's the same insane calculation that all resistance/guerilla movements count on - an overreaction by the authorities to a challenge of their dominance resulting in a massive wave of support for the movement:
Does this mean a new round of Troubles? No. But a new round of Troubles wasn't likely to happen 40 years ago, either. Public opinion was firmly against IRA terrorism in the late 1960s; a mere 2 per cent of Northern Ireland Catholics then supported the Provos. Catholic women initially brought tea and biscuits to British soldiers on patrol; after all, they had arrived to protect Catholic areas from Protestant mobs in 1969.

So why did the Troubles happen? Well, the Brits made horrendous mistakes when the IRA began its terror campaign. Sometimes, they overreacted, as when British paratroopers fired on a crowd of demonstrators and killed 19 people. Sometimes, they underreacted, as when they let the IRA set up "no-go areas" where it brutally consolidated support.
And who are the new bands of dissidents?
As to what motivates them, a dissident spokesman provided a clue last month in a rare interview with a Belfast paper, the Irish News. Politics had failed republicans: “politics and military cannot operate side by side.” To avert another Omagh they would not leave bombs in town centres but would target the security forces. Police and mainstream republicans say, and a number of arrests bear them out, that most dissidents are not disaffected ex-IRA but younger men, drawn in by a mixture of diehard belief that violence is essential if Northern Ireland is to be freed from the United Kingdom and a hankering for the excitement of disorder and the community status that paramilitaries once enjoyed.
A belief that the imagined utopia of the Troubles is a the way to the future is the cornerstone of a doomed movement.

There were no good ol' days.

Let's just hope the authorities and the Sinn Fein can act conservatively and wisely by playing the public against the murderers. This will be a battle for hearts and minds, and any drastic reactionary response by the British will end badly.

Here's MIA, pre-superfame, discussing the nature of resistance in her own terms:

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