Getting tough now will only play into the hands of killers
Published 10/03/2009 | 07:48
Sir Hugh Orde knows what the dissidents are looking for out of that murder mission at the weekend. He knows they are waiting for, and hoping for, a security response — something that demonstrates that they are succeeding and that policing and politics and peace are failing.
“What are these idiots trying to do?” he asked — “getting the British Army back onto the streets to spend the next 30 years getting them back off the streets.”
The Chief Constable will not walk into that trap. He has made that perfectly clear.
“Categorically” he states that he has “no intention of bringing the military back into the routine of policing”.
He knows that to paint troops back into the picture would be to “give the victory” the dissidents want.
All of that said, the murders at Massereene Barracks change things.
It will change security arrangements at bases and there will be changes to the routine that soldiers have allowed to develop as the peace has been built, and as they have relaxed into those changing circumstances.
But juggling resources — reviewing operations — is part and parcel of what goes on here, part of the security task and job.
“That’s what we do all the time,” the Chief Constable said. “That’s what I’m paid to do.”
Right now, all of that will happen on a daily — indeed hourly — basis.
Two soldiers are dead, victims of an attack that came in under the radar.
And having been “successful” in their terms, the dissidents may well try something more.
That is the continuing danger.
There is a routine, a pattern that develops around soldiers in the towns in which they are based.
It is something that is easily seen, and Saturday’s attack was possible because the dissidents put the jigsaw together.
Unarmed soldiers — waiting for food — walked into their gunfire, and there was no escape, no place to take cover. It is likely that the gunmen were experienced in this type of attack.
As one source said, he would be “staggered” if this was “their first hit”.
And this is one of the things the police will be looking at — who operating in that dissident republican world is capable of this?
“We are all putting maximum effort into solving this crime,” the Chief Constable said.
That is the policing focus.
He has discussed the security picture with the Prime Minister, the Secretary of State, the military, his own people and many others in the hours and days since the barrack attack.
If he feels he needs something more then he will ask for it, but he stresses that “you have to be realistic about this”.
There is no such thing as perfect security or a complete intelligence picture — never has been.
For all the watching and listening of the intelligence world, the IRA still managed to launch mortar bombs at Downing Street and still managed to smuggle in Libyan supplied weapons under their noses.
In that surveillance world you don’t see and hear everything.
Incidents such as the one at Massereene Barracks are not just about targeting the security forces.
These are attacks on the peace process and on the Sinn Fein strategy. The dissidents consider Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness to be traitors.
It is also about targeting police officers and soldiers to tell young nationalists and republicans that it is not safe to join the PSNI, that if they take that step then they are risking their lives.
So, there is a lot to think about — both what to do and what not to do. What happened at the weekend needs a thought-through response.
That is what is happening here. In the worlds of politics and policing they know what the dissidents want. They are not going to give it to them.