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Prison officer Adrian Ismay another name added to list of dead as thugs of republicanism try to prolong Troubles

By Malachi O'Doherty

Published 16/03/2016

Forensic officers at the scene of the blast.
Forensic officers at the scene of the blast.

For most of us, the prison officer bombed in his car in east Belfast only acquired a name when he died.

We learned it yesterday afternoon. He was Adrian Ismay. He was 52 years old and he worked at Hydebank Young Offenders Centre.

Another man, whose name we also know, is charged with attempted murder of Mr Ismay. We learned his name after he appeared in court. He is Christopher Robinson, from Twinbrook. A court will decide what role, if any, he had in the matter.

We do not know - and perhaps we will never know - the names of the people who conceived the idea of killing Mr Ismay, who made the bomb and delivered it.

The thinking of the anonymous republican purists who are currently trying to extend the Troubles and make some impact close to Easter was outlined in their statement.

They call themselves the IRA. They are perhaps as entitled as any other group to use that name. Who cares? Most of us are little impressed by the philosophical distinctions these killer groups make between themselves and each other.

They say they attacked him because he was training other prison officers - something that could only be an offence in the minds of those who think that there should not be any prison officers, or at least not any trained ones.

Maybe they would prefer the prisons to be run by people who are not trained at all. Of course, what they are saying is that the Prison Service has no legitimate right to hold or discipline republican militants, people whose only allegiance is to a republic declared in 1916 and which is in some way real to them as a heaven filled with pliable virgins is real to the jihadis. All of this is tiresome.

And as the shocking news came through yesterday afternoon that Mr Ismay had died, some of us will have felt it like a sinking in the stomach and some will have blocked it out and turned their minds to other things, and some will hardly have noticed, because you cannot notice everything.

And though it was never likely that he or his family had adjusted already to the horror that had been brought upon them by that pointless bomb, the rest of us had moved on.

The attack was off the news agenda. We could carry on without thinking about it.

And hadn't the reports said that his injuries were not life-threatening?

And hadn't nearly half-a-dozen other bombs - all neutralised - been found since the attack, proving that we are as safe as we expect to be and that the old diehards are not up to much anyway? Then Mr Ismay died.

The First Minister, who had the compassion and decency to stay in touch, had sent him a text before heading off to the US to drum up trade.

One wonders how Mrs Foster discusses these things with her deputy, Martin McGuinness, who is a relatively recent convert to the idea that you should not blow people up.

Might it be the moment to recollect in conversation with him how she was herself bombed on a school bus? Or would she perhaps think it is better not to mention that?

The Chief Constable says he has to wait for medical reports to determine whether the crime of attempted murder should be upgraded to murder.

Certainly, those who bombed Mr Ismay wanted him dead. And now he is dead.

But legal minds must now parse the relevance of the bomb to the outcome so that justice might be done to the bomber, and he or she not be held unfairly accountable for succeeding in what he or she was trying to do - to kill Adrian Ismay. Church people and politicians will commiserate and we journalists will have our say and write our headlines.

Some, new to the work, will bring fresh minds to condemnation and analysis. Some of us have been doing this for decades, trying to comprehend the point and imagining sometimes that we do.

And, by the evidence of the past, none of our words will have any effect on the strange, dull-minded thugs among us for whom the Troubles did not go on long enough.

Belfast Telegraph

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