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Brian Rowan: Riddle as to why MI5 were interested in Kieran Doherty

Why would the security services MI5 have been interested in Kieran Doherty?

And what is meant by he was “known to police”?

These are just two of the questions that emerge from a killing that is a throwback to the past.

Mr Doherty’s near-naked body was dumped at the roadside, his hands bound and he had been shot in the head.

This was an execution — the type of killing that in the past would have been used to deliver a wider warning.

So how did the police know him?

“It’s certainly in the drugs world,” one source commented.

But that would not have been the security services’ interest in this man, if indeed they were interested.

“MI5 would have had no reason or authorisation to talk to him about drugs,” a source commented.

And then you get into that world of closed doors. That comment hints at something else, but gives no other information.

Late last year, in an interview with the Derry Journal newspaper, Kieran Doherty claimed the security services had approached him.

The MI5 role in Northern Ireland is national security — their focus here the dissident republican threat.

So, if the story of the approach is true, how did they think Doherty could help?

How would he be useful in the war against the dissidents?

It may well have been about who he knew and what he knew about that dissident world.

Even before last night’s statement admitting the killing, fingers were being pointed at the Real IRA.

Martin McGuinness wanted the linked 32 County Sovereignty Movement to make a statement.

But people will remember that in its past the IRA took many people down lonely roads and ended their lives there.

All of what the dissidents are doing comes from an IRA book.

This latest shooting, the mortar bomb at Keady, the car bomb outside the courthouse in Newry, the booby-trap device under Peadar Heffron’s car — none of it is new.

We have seen it all before, and in this spread of dissident activity, tactics are being taken from one page and then another in that old IRA book.

The dissidents are doing all of the things the IRA did — not the same level of activity, but there is a gradual build-up.

Some unionists argue there is “a security solution” to this.

There is not.

Marching the Army back on stage, using special forces to confront the dissidents, it would be an over reaction at a time that calls for a measured response. Even in this build-up of activity, the dissidents are nowhere close to matching what the IRA once did – nowhere close to matching that capability for a sustained campaign.

This is not a re-run or a repeat of that old war.

It is a situation in which some of the tactics are being recycled.

The dissidents will not be condemned from the stage.

To some it will sound outrageous, but there is a better chance that talking would succeed — a dialogue done secretly and with the intention of persuading them that there is another way.

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