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Police must investigate Continuity IRA gun salute

Editor's Viewpoint

Published 06/04/2015

Another Easter Sunday has come and gone, and there are headlines once again about the so-called Continuity IRA firing shots at a commemoration ceremony in Lurgan.

It is extremely depressing to discover that there are still people who choose the gun rather than the ballot-box. Sadly, they still look to the sterility of the violent past, rather than to a better future for us all.

It is a cheap way to create violence, and it does not require much brains or excessive organisation to smuggle a weapon with live ammunition into a commemoration gathering.

However, this incident took place in broad daylight and at one of the larger towns in Northern Ireland. Some republican activists will regard this as another coup for those still wedded to violence, but most other people are understandably furious that this happened, and that the perpetrators of violence have been given their brief moment in the limelight.

Easter commemoration ceremonies create particular difficulties for the police. They have to decide whether intervention is the better course of action - knowing that this could endanger themselves, and lead to even greater violence which in turn could produce even more publicity for extremists.

The same arguments apply to the ghastly "colour parties" which are there to give the ceremony a tinge of spurious militarism. Even though they do no good, they do comparatively little harm apart from flying the flag for violence, and any attempt by the police to dismantle them could lead to much more violence.

There are no easy answers, and the PSNI must strike a balance between allowing a ceremony to proceed, with a low police profile, as opposed to stopping it and causing much more trouble.

Nevertheless, the firing of live ammunition is a huge step too far, and the police will have to answer tough questions about why this happened and what they are going to do about it.

Mrs Kate Carroll, whose husband Constable Stephen Carroll was murdered by dissident republicans not far away six years ago, is right to express her horror at what happened in Lurgan yesterday.

She is also fully entitled to appeal to those who know the names of people involved to pass them on to the police. Violence is not the way forward for anyone.

Belfast Telegraph

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