Dissident bomb attack shows terrorists' complete disregard for life in Northern Ireland
It is evident that dissident republicans are ratcheting up their campaign of violence. The bomb attack on a police officer in Londonderry yesterday follows the recent shooting and wounding of an officer in north Belfast and the discovery of viable devices in other areas.
The full lexicon of condemnation has been used in relation to this latest attack, but the words will mean little to those who carried it out. They were simply intent on murdering a police officer going to do his job protecting the community from criminals like themselves.
It was only by good fortune that the device, believed to have been attached under his car, fell off without exploding. But it did go off when an Army bomb disposal expert tried to defuse it showing that even if the terrorists' primary target escaped, other people, including children playing in the area, could have been killed or seriously injured. That demonstrates the callous disregard that the terrorists have for life, anyone's life.
They probably see the current political instability in the province as an opportunity to exploit. The election campaign which has seen insults hurled about has created a toxic and trying atmosphere. This is an election that no one really wanted and which no one can see as solving any of the problems facing the political parties. Indeed, if the stated positions of the parties remain unchanged after the votes are counted, the problems may be exacerbated, not lessened.
We all know what the real issues are - a crumbling health service, the need for educational reform, the RHI debacle, resources for policing - but, as ever, the Orange and Green cards are being played in the hope that they trump all other issues.
And it doesn't help that the new Sinn Fein leader at Stormont, Michelle O'Neill, sends out mixed messages. She says that she respects all traditions and wants to heal the hurt of the past, but then lauds the actions of four republicans from her home village who intended to cause even more hurt before being shot dead by the SAS.
While it would be naive to expect republicans to disavow their past, the middle of an election campaign is hardly the appropriate time to be paying homage to a campaign of violence which still has echoes today. It is particularly disappointing that she chose that platform at this time given that she was portrayed as the new image of the party.
That said, Mrs O'Neill's predecessor, Martin McGuinness, who never said sorry for the IRA's actions, did take significant steps to move the peace process forward. His description of the dissidents who murdered Constable Ronan Kerr in April 2011 as "waging a useless war against peace" and those who killed two soldiers at Massereene near Antrim as "traitors to the island of Ireland" took enormous courage and showed a willingness to create a new political climate in the province. He was unequivocal of his condemnation of the dissidents' violence and no doubt his successor will be equally forthright.
However, our thoughts at this time should be concentrated on the police officer and his family after the trauma of this attack. It is one thing to know that as a police officer you may be a target for dissidents, but to realise that they have actually crept up to your home and placed a bomb under your car unaware of who may have driven it come the morning adds a new layer of terror to daily life.
Police must be given the resources and the community support to defeat the dissidents so that more officers do not face these vile and cowardly threats to their lives.