In recent months a disconcerting hum of violent intent has been growing louder around the province.
Dissident republicans and discontented loyalists have been flexing their muscles in a dangerous manner. Mortar bombs, pipe bombs and rocket launchers are among the arsenal uncovered by police since late last year. Some loyalist pipe bombs have exploded outside homes, fortunately causing a minimum of injury to their intended targets. Far more seriously bombs have been found underneath the cars of police officers or outside their homes as dissident republicans seek a headline-creating atrocity.
The interception of four fully primed mortar bombs in Londonderry, apparently intended for a murderous attack on the local police station, showed the level of threat that dissidents pose. There is no doubt that these weapons could have inflicted mass casualties and deaths. The discovery of the plot and the arrest of a number of men also show that the police and security services are working well to nullify the republicans' threat.
It is often said that many of the successes of the security services and police never make the headlines because bomb or murder plots are abandoned when they become compromised. But the number of weapons and explosives found recently in places as far apart as Derry, Belfast and Omagh show that the police are acting on good intelligence. In the past there were justifiable fears expressed about some of the dark arts of intelligence gathering, particularly the running of informers, but it remains the most vital weapon available to the police in the war against terrorists.
There are terrorists on both sides of the community who want to return the province to the dark days of civil strife. They care not for the democratic will of the people. They may be relatively small in number but nevertheless are dangerous and ruthless. The police and intelligence services are our bulwark against them and must be supported in their efforts to bring these terrorists to justice.