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Sunday 5 September 2004

Stop peddling the lie that we've had ten years of blissful peace in Northern Ireland

SINN Fein/IRA, their apologists, the gullible, the wishful thinkers and the pig ignorant may have left some people with the impression that last Tuesday, August 31, was the 10th anniversary of the day - as we are forever being poetically told - when "the IRA guns fell silent". 

Quite apart from this being a pathetic fallacy (it wasn't that the guns decided to stop shooting; the IRA leadership finally grasped that murdering unionists was counterproductive), this assertion is simply untrue. 

In fairness to Gerry Adams, Martin McGuinness and their dreadful colleagues, they made it perfectly clear what they were offering that day. It wasn't an end to killing - it was a "complete cessation of military activity" (killing members of the security forces or anyone working for them) for as long as it suited them. Yet in the euphoria that followed this announcement, to point out the absence of the word "permanent" or to ask what exactly "military" meant was to be anti-peace. 

It was equally anti-peace to point out that the IRA's commitment to dialogue would have been more impressive had they not deliberately inflamed loyalist paramilitaries by murdering two of their ghastly heroes preciselyone month earlier - a provocation that almost scuppered a loyalist ceasefire. 

The Appeasers' Chorus that has been drowning out sceptical voices for a decade was already in fine form when in November, during a robbery in Newry, the IRA killed Frank Kerr, a postal worker. It seemed unperturbed when 17-year old Malachy Clark hanged himself the following month, a few weeks after an IRA gang had broken his nose, burst his eardrums, beaten him and poured glue over his head. But Malachy, like the thousands of others tortured by paramilitaries, didn't attract much outrage, even from the civil liberties crew. 

Nor was there much indignation about the six murders (IRA posing as Direct Action Against Drugs) in 1995 of alleged drug dealers. Adams - in vulpine mode - telling a Belfast crowd apropos the IRA that "They haven't gone away, you know", was, we were assured, just placating his hardliners. As the appeasers shouted down the sceptics, and as President Bill Clinton shook hands with Adams on the Falls Road that November, South Armagh murderers were obeying Army Council instructions and working on the bomb that in February 1996 killed John Jeffries, a musician, and his friend Inan Ul-haq Bashir, in their newspaper kiosk near Canary Wharf. 

The IRA blamed the British prime minister, John Major, for making unacceptable demands. Appeasers like Eamon Dunphy blamed people like me, for upsetting the IRA by querying theirsincerity. 

Wexford-born Edward O'Brien killed himself with his own bomb a week later in central London and in June, Garda Jerry McCabe was shot in Adare. Threats to witnesses reportedly led the prosecution team to drop murder charges in favour of a manslaughter charge. 

The death of Warrant Officer James Bradwell, four days after two IRA bombs blew him up inThiepval barracks near Lisburn, in October 1996, has been forgotten by all but his grieving family and friends. And, maybe, by his murderers. 

The fine fellows who shot dead young Lance Bombardier Stephen Restorick, in February 1997, laughed and shouted to friends as they were taken to the cells: they had much to celebrate 16 months later when they were released under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement. The gunmen who murdered Constables Roland Graham and David Johnston in broad daylight in Lurgan in June got off scot-free. 

The second "cessation", of July 1997, which followed the decision of the new Blair government to let Sinn Fein into talks without any prior decommissioning, has lasted, and is probably permanent. Because they no longer kill dozens of people every year, it is considered anti-peace to protest about what a Northern Ireland official cynically described as "internal housekeeping" - ie the occasional IRA murder or savage torture of mutinous republicans or petty criminals. 

The way nationalists treat Sinn Fein/IRA reminds me of a wife who - used to being half-strangled, stabbed and trashed to within an inch of her life - tells people proudly that her husband now beats her only occasionally, and rarely seriously enough to send her to hospital. Meanwhile, her husband, who should be in jail, appears on television hailed as a role model for the young. 

Among the major misfortunes visited upon our country is the ideology of physical-force nationalism and the existence of fundamentalist practitioners cruel enough to kill and maim men, women and children in its name. I am glad that the IRA leadership these days - unlike their successors in the Real and Continuity IRAs - think the smart way to go is the ballot-box and criminality rather than murder. But don't expect me to be grateful. 

And please, stop peddling the lie that we've had a decade of peace.  

Ruth Dudley Edwards

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