For those of us of a certain age there are horrible echoes of the past in the comments made by Chief Superintendent Stephen Martin of the PSNI about dissident republicans.
He described their actions as criminal and said they have no support within the province or internationally. Senior police officers were making those same comments about the activities of the IRA and loyalist terror gangs 40 years ago.
However, there is one huge difference now. We have established a power-sharing administration in Northern Ireland, one in which mainstream republicans are playing a full part. There is no section of political expression in the province which cannot find a place for itself in legitimate politics. The very nature of power-sharing means that the two big ideological blocs, unionism and nationalism, have to co-operate or stagnate.
But, of course, the dissidents know all this. They are not fighting their senseless war — which has claimed three lives and left a police officer maimed — because of lack of political opportunity. They have a warped vision that an united Ireland is still achievable through force and they will kill to prove their point. An opinion poll carried in this newspaper last week showed the popular support for power-sharing, even if it has been working imperfectly. The public mood is for differences to be resolved by intelligent debate and policy formulation, not by laying waste to the community and people’s lives.
It is also telling that even traditional republican supporters in Irish-America want nothing to do with the dissidents. They are out of touch with reality and virtually alone. None of that makes them any less dangerous, but surely even they must see the futility of their campaign. If they continue, then the community at large must ensure that they have no hiding place and that the PSNI is given every assistance to put the terrorists behind bars.