Sometimes a number of events conspire to jolt us out of our complacency.
Since the ending of the Troubles, there has been a new optimism in Northern Ireland that, not only were the days of politically inspired violence behind us, but that life in general would continue to improve. However, as events of the past week have shown, there is an undercurrent of evil in the community which has not been eradicated and which runs contrary to what every decent person believes.
In a throwback to the Troubles, the dissident republican groups have issued threats against civilian security guards and communications technicians employed by the Policing Board. Although both terror groups are small in number and have very little community support, their combined threat is not insignificant. They have mounted several attacks against the PSNI, narrowly failing on more than one occasion in their efforts to kill. The issuing of these new threats is a chilling escalation and everyone with information which could lead to the arrest of the ter
rorists should give it to the police. There can be no return to the days when terrorists tried, and failed, to extinguish all hope in this province.
But there are other violent thugs at large in the community. Witness those who robbed two blind brothers in Newtownabbey. It is difficult to imagine a more despicable and cowardly crime then to attack someone who cannot see to defend themselves. The men were cruelly and savagedly beaten before a small sum of money was stolen from them. The brothers’ main concern was that the attackers would not injure their guide dogs, which are essentially their
eyes. In the midst of their own suffering, the brothers showed themselves to be infinitely greater human beings than the thugs who broke into their home.
Only last week a 45-year-old farmer, Victor Stewart, was killed in his Co Armagh farmhouse in another robbery. That showed that some people are prepared to go to any lengths, even to killing another person, in order to satisfy their greed. The PSNI should be given every assistance in tracking down the thugs responsible for these robberies in Newtownabbey and Armagh. It is a sign of a really normal society when the community gives its unconditional support to the forces of law and order.
But even the emergency services are not immune from attack. Two firefighters were injured when youths threw stones and bottles at a firecrew tackling a car fire in west Belfast. It is difficult to understand the mentality of those who attack emergency services whose sole concern is the safety of the community. The number of attacks on the emergency services has fallen recently, but the only acceptable number is zero. The communities where such attacks take place must play a part in keeping young people under control.
Of course the political vacuum at Stormont does not help. Responsibility for devising policies to tackle the continuing terrorism threat and other forms of lawlessness could be in local hands if the DUP and Sinn Fein would agree a timetable for the devolution of policing and justice powers. Their pointless stand-off is only diminishing respect for the power-sharing administration and playing into the hands of those who would destroy the hard won peace.