Stormont tells Belfast bombers: you won't drag us back to the past
Published 26/11/2013 | 01:30
Assembly parties have put on a united front to tell the terrorists who brought bombs back to Belfast, "we are not going back to the past".
MLAs also refused to allow the bombers to seize the agenda at the Assembly – by putting a peacemaker first in their order of business.
Rather than make the attempted destruction of the Belfast's premier shopping precinct the top of their list, members stuck to their schedule and joined forces initially to pay tribute to the late Redemptorist priest, Fr Alec Reid.
It was a poignant juxtaposition, since there was no way Stormont could ignore the dissident republican near-miss at Victoria Square.
Gerry Kelly of Sinn Fein drew the parallel, blasting the bomb as a contrast and contradiction to the life work of Fr Reid, who was the intermediary in the early contacts between John Hume and Gerry Adams.
Despite the spate of bomb scares and long motorway delays of recent weeks, the message from MLAs yesterday seemed to amount to 'now it's personal'.
Green leader, Steven Agnew, spoke of how as a child he worried when his mum was late home from work in Belfast – and he does not want his own young children to experience the same.
Opening the debate, the DUP's Jonathan Craig revealed that on hearing the news, his wife said, 'surely not. We cannot go back to that'."
Members and ministers used the language of condemnation, apart from Ulster Unionist Michael Copeland, who said there was no point, since the word is employed 'ad nauseum'.
"We must identify those who are responsible, track them down and make them subject to the rule of law. In the absence of that, the public will conclude that these people are, in essence, free to do what they want," the east Belfast MLA added.
Justice Minister and Alliance leader, David Ford, said: "They must know that what they are doing can achieve no political outcome."
Party political points were for the most part avoided, but Social Development Minister Nelson McCausland said lessons from history could not be un-learned.
"The car bomb as a method of attack by terrorists was designed by the Provisional IRA many years ago. We must not allow anyone to rewrite history in such a way as to suggest that, when such things happened in the past, they were somehow right," he said.
His north Belfast SDLP counterpart, Alban Maginness, said: "...the fact is that we should be saying to those people who carried out this act, 'Yes, you have carried out the failed tactics of the past.' Politics works, and nothing else will work to bring about change."
The only party unrepresented was the TUV, whose sole MLA Jim Allister is ill, and First Minister Peter Robinson and Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness were also elsewhere – coupling their message to the bombers with a jobs announcement.