Belfast Telegraph

Tuesday 2 September 2014

McGuinness attack a serious escalation

Any fool or coward can paint bomb someone's home, but there was something more sinister in the attack on the home of Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness.

There was an element of throwing down the gauntlet to the former IRA man by dissidents, a statement that they were the new bully-boys in town now that the Provos had put away their guns in the pursuit of peace. Their choice of target showed a new boldness by the dissidents and no one should underestimate the threat they pose, even if their numbers are small.

Coming as it did alongside what is said to be a genuine death threat against Mr McGuinness, it is clear that dissidents want to make a point to him. He has shown tremendous courage several times during his term of office branding dissidents as traitors – the greatest insult he could deliver – as well as pointing out the futility of their continued violence. For that he deserves great credit and also the support of everyone who believes in creating a new peaceful Northern Ireland.

While we should not overplay the significance of the paint bomb attack, neither should we regard it as totally irrelevant. It does show the dark and dangerous undercurrents still existing in this society and the need to keep pressing forward towards a genuinely shared future. It is no coincidence that both President Barack Obama and Prime Minister David Cameron have been asking questions about recent violence in Northern Ireland and the progress of the long-delayed Cohesion, Sharing and Integration policy.

It is clear that both the US and UK are prepared to play hardball on this issue, arguing that our politicians need to put their own house in order and introduce a shared future programme if they want to benefit from investment. It is a tactic that has been used in the past and which has worked.

Pressure from leaders of the status of President Obama and Mr Cameron will concentrate minds on a disgracefully neglected policy.

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