The sight of 200 black bereted militia swaggering through Dublin on Easter Sunday was sickening given the murder of 29-year-old journalist Lyra McKee on Holy Thursday at the hands of the New IRA
The death of journalist Lyra McKee in Derry on Thursday night should be the death knell of playing soldiers and revolutionaries as these militia love to do.
The dreadful murder was the handiwork of some new young fanatic, cajoled and led into violence by an older generation that misses the war.
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We had grown used to the imperfect silence, the 21 years since the Good Friday Agreement imposed a cold peace that mainly stopped the killing but never fully solved the political jigsaw puzzle.
Now comes the horrible violence again, shaking us out of our quiet dreams of a perpetual end to violence in Ireland.
But the Republican militants marching under the banner of Saoradh, an Irish word that means liberation, showed they had no shame by marching and trampling on the memory of a brave young woman who was just doing her job and whose body was hardly cold.
“Not in our name” was the nationwide reaction in Ireland to the killing, even becoming a slogan painted on the famous gable wall as you enter the Bogside in Derry.
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Calling the actions of the group “beneath contempt,” Taoiseach Leo Varadkar voiced what was on most Irish people’s minds.
Explain again, Saoradh, how the killing of a Catholic-born young female reporter with a brilliant career ahead brings a united Ireland a step closer?
The narrative of Northern Ireland -- the unfair partition, the lack of nationalists in power, the discrimination in jobs, the deeply anti-Catholic police force -- led directly to The Troubles.
An awful lot of these issues have been addressed now, and there is absolutely no point in trudging back to war seeking what will likely come in the next decade or two through peaceful means.
Saoradh is the name of the “political” wing of the New IRA. I deliberately include quotation marks as they would not get elected toilet attendant north or south after the murder of McKee -- or even before.
That does not make them less dangerous, though. The militia leader is said to be Colin Duffy, arrested but cleared of three murders during The Troubles and a highly dangerous gunman.
Last week I happened to be speaking to author Tim Pat Coogan, likely the greatest living expert on the IRA. Our conversation took place before the tragic death of McKee.
He actually discussed his worries about the militants, and especially Duffy, making the point that zealots like him would be underestimated at your peril. Coogan was clearly worried, with Brexit, stalled government and ill will on both sides that the peace project he and so many labored mightily on was in jeopardy.
There will always be those who will follow the war drums, Coogan said, which makes it vital they are marginalized.
There is only one way to do that -- restore legitimate government to Northern Ireland which has been absent for over two years.
Violence thrives in a political vacuum and that is what the North is experiencing right now. McKee’s death is the wake-up call that the moribund peace process needed. It is up to political leaders to seize the moment.
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