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Malachi O'Doherty: Renegades want a re-run of daily killings to shatter the sense we are at peace now

By Malachi O'Doherty

Published 05/03/2016

Coming groggily awake to news of a bomb, it hardly registers until, at a more lucid level of consciousness, you remind yourself that this sort of thing doesn't happen any more.

The story unfolded in a pattern roughly predictable to those of us who lived through the tedium of the Troubles, the condemnations, the calls for people to disown the bombers and give them up, as if there was actually any way you or I could do that.

If there was a difference in the media tone, it was in the vox-popping of neighbours, who in the old days would have preferred to keep their heads down, having local paramilitaries they'd be wary of offending.

At lunch with friends, I discover that none of them have heard the news yet. That surprises me. Some of them are young enough not to have acquired the news addiction that afflicted most of us during the Troubles, others have lost it.

So a bomb that was intended not just to kill, and failed in that, thank God, was also intended to shock us all awake, with the reminder of unfinished business, and failed in that too.

We did live for a long time with this being our normality. During the last years of the Troubles, the average death toll was under 100 a year - that is a killing every three days on average. And then on top of that, the attempts at murder that didn't come off, the bombs heard in the night that woke up half the city but caused no other casualties.

The Troubles had become boring long before they were over.

Aside from the unsustainable grief they visited on the families of the dead and maimed, the mental stress and trauma of the wounded, they afflicted the greater number of us with a perpetual anxiety in the stomach and a general sense of disappointment with life here.

This is what the republican purists or throwbacks would give us - a region that would hardly be worth living in.

Some of us feel we know that ashen taste in the mouth too well now, and would leave if it started again. A lot don't. Half of us are too young.

Though they can maybe remember a few recent atrocities, they cannot recall the perpetual grimness, the constant helicopter overhead that you almost stopped hearing, the routine bleakness and the failure of the imagination, not just in the violence itself, but in the capacity to respond to it.

My thoughts for the bombers: you sicken us.

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