Belfast Telegraph

Former Tory MP warns over new Troubles threat

By Noel McAdam

A former Conservative MP who served as a soldier in Northern Ireland has warned the current "power vacuum" at Stormont could lead to a slide into violence.

Patrick Mercer, a former shadow homeland security spokesman, said violence is always a "lever" which can be used in the province.

Mr Mercer - who quit as an MP after accepting payments from an undercover reporter posing as a lobbyist - also said the Government's claim to be an "honest broker" here has been "snapped" by his former party's deal with the DUP.

"How can the Government slip so blindly into bed with a party that opposed the Good Friday Agreement of 1998?" he asked.

In an article for the Yorkshire Post, Mr Mercer also said: "Westminster's claim to be the honest broker in Ulster's affairs was always fragile, now the pact with the DUP has snapped it. There's a power vacuum in Ulster.

"Conventional politicians might push a number of conventional buttons to fill that vacuum, but in Ulster there's another lever that can be used: violence.

"Even the threat of such violence might be enough to topple a government as febrile as the one we now have and it's not the slightly remote threat of occasional Islamist violence: it's the stark, all-too-well-understood threat of a new bout of 'Troubles'.

"As a desperate government stumbles, edges myopically forward, it would do well to remember the threat on its doorstep: there may be Troubles ahead."

Mr Mercer (61) made his comments after a recent visit to his "old stamping grounds" including Strabane, Crossmaglen and Ballymurphy.

He said he had noted a change in the message of the murals he saw from the "predictable 'Informers will be killed!', 'No Surrender!' etc".

"Now there's a new message," he said. "From gable ends masked machine-gunners and bombers stare down proclaiming 'Unfinished Business!'"

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