Hit & Run

Northern Ireland's Fragile Peace


The first attack, on Saturday night, could have been dismissed as a rogue operation conducted by dead-enders in either the Continuity IRA or the Real IRA. Sapper Mark Quinsey, 23, and Sapper Patrick Azimkar, 21, both British army soldiers, were shot dead outside the gates of Massereene barracks in Antrim, Northern Ireland. Throughout the 1990s, terrorism experts often speculated after individual terrorist outrages that governments must be watchful of diluted versions of the Rote Armee Fraktion, Brigade Rosa, and the November 17 group reconstituting and continuing harassment of those judged to be ideological and class enemies. Thankfully, such warnings proved unnecessary, as initial fear-mongering in the wake of Saturday's Antrim attack seemed to be. But 48 hours later, two members of the extreme republican Continuity IRA approached the vehicle of Police Constable Stephen Carroll, who was responding to a domestic violence call, and shot him in the head. He was killed instantly. (According to Sky News, two arrests were made today in the case.)

Sinn Fein's Gerry Adams, former member of the IRA army council, was "fanning the flames" of sectarianism, according The Daily Telegraph, by "sidestep[ing] a call to directly condemn the shootings." Watch the video interview with Adams and Martin McGuiness, embedded at the top of this story, in which Adams dances pirouettes around a direct condemnation of the murder of British soldiers (why denounce something that made your career, after all?) and, instead, laments the "unworthiness of this action" and the "counter-productive attack on the peace process." In contrast, Thomas Burns, SDLP MLA from South Antrim, who is the representative of the main, moderate Catholic party in Northern Ireland, was unequivocal: "This was a particularly brutal and horrific attack. Two families are in mourning as a result of this despicable action. I wish to send my deepest and sincerest sympathies to those concerned."

For those interested in the conflict in Northern Ireland, I can recommend two outstanding new books on the subject. Kevin Myers' Watching the Door, recently released in the U.S. by Soft Skull Press, is a terrific, touching memoir of covering the conflict in Belfast during the height of the "Troubles." Myers is equally hostile to Catholic and Protestant terrorism.  As yet unavailable in America (but easily obtained from Amazon.co.uk) is Henry McDonald's spectacular Gunsmoke and Mirrors: How Sinn Fein Dressed Up Defeat as Victory, which argues that the IRA/Sinn Fein achieved none of its political goals.