herald

Saturday 10 December 2016

Andrew Lynch: Dissidents' arrests shows that killers have not gone away

Britain's Prince Charles and Camilla Parker-Bowles
Britain's Prince Charles and Camilla Parker-Bowles
charles and camilla

Has Prince Charles just dodged a Real IRA bullet? Until we know full details of the garda security crackdown that led to the arrest of six men last Wednesday, it is impossible to say for sure.

What this operation does prove is that dissident republicans still pose a grave threat to peace in Ireland - and there can be no mercy shown in the fight to stamp them out for good.

Although Charles and his wife Camilla have been here a number of times before, next week's visit will be by far their most personal.

The itinerary includes Mullaghmore in Co Sligo, where Charles's beloved grand-uncle Lord Mountbatten was blown up by the IRA in 1979 (along with two teenage boys and an 82-year-old woman).

For the small but dedicated group of hardliners who still believe in bombing their way to a united Ireland, the idea of history repeating itself must be hard to resist.

This is why Wednesday's events were so significant. Gardai on traffic duties in Co Leitrim detained two men after finding a pistol and pipe bombs in their vehicle.

2015-05-14_new_9538551_I2.JPG
Charles and Camilla

There were also raids in counties Dublin, Wexford and Louth, resulting in more arrests and a controlled explosion to put bomb-making equipment out of use.

It appears that republican terrorism hasn't gone away.

Their 'Brits out' mentality has not changed since 1984, when the Provos came within seconds of killing Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher at her Brighton hotel.

"Today we were unlucky," read the chilling IRA statement afterwards. "But remember, we only have to be lucky once. You will have to be lucky always."

From our secluded vantage point down south it may seem hard to believe that this kind of fanaticism is alive and well.

After all, the Good Friday Agreement convinced most republicans to lay down their arms and embrace democracy instead.

The hold-outs initially looked like a pathetic ragbag, expertly mocked by the Northern Irish comedian Patrick Kielty: "There's the Real IRA, the Surreal IRA, the Continuity IRA, the Official IRA, the Low Fat IRA, the I Can't Believe It's Not the IRA..."

Nobody was laughing, however, when the Real IRA's Omagh bomb murdered 29 people in 1998. Or when its members shot dead two British soldiers outside a barracks in Co Antrim in 2009.

Dubliners got a taste of this organisation's sick antics at a Donaghmede funeral in 2012, where masked thugs blocked off roads and fired shots over the coffin of Alan Ryan.

While the Real IRA might have virtually no public support, it is certainly not short of cash.

According to a recent report based on data from the US State Department, it is actually the world's ninth richest terrorist organisation - with a nest egg of almost €45m.

Most of that comes from alcohol, cigarette and diesel smuggling, which are all big businesses around certain parts of the border.

execution

This week's garda crackdown deserves praise but it will take a lot more than one operation to put the Real IRA out of action.

The overwhelming majority of Irish people will give Prince Charles a cead mile failte next week, just as they did to his mother in 2011.

On the other hand, opinion polls show that roughly 20pc of us support Sinn Fein - a political party that still believes the IRA "execution" of Lord Mountbatten was fully justified.

Gerry Adams could only say, "he knew the danger involved", while one of Mountbatten's convicted killers openly canvassed for the party in last year's European elections.

When Prince Charles touches down here next Tuesday, gardai plan to put "a ring of steel" around him. They are absolutely right to do so.

As the great Irish politician John Philpot Curran once said: "The price of liberty is eternal vigilance."

It appears that we are going to need that vigilance in Ireland for a long time to come.

Promoted articles

Entertainment News