Belfast Telegraph

Isis terrorists follow in the bloody footprints of other armed lunatics like IRA Provos

There was nothing new in the tactics used by the terrorists in Paris, in scenes reminiscent of what happened in a Belfast bar, writes Eilis O'Hanlon

Night of terror: a blood drenched man in Paris after Friday’s attacks
Night of terror: a blood drenched man in Paris after Friday’s attacks
An injured man is led away following the Abercorn Bar bomb in March 1972

Last Friday's terrorist attacks in Paris, which left 129 people dead, are being seen as a new development in the tactics of Islamic State. It's undeniable that fanatical jihadists, after wreaking carnage on Syria and Iraq, are now clearly aiming to extend their reach into Europe as well.

But there's nothing new about IS's tactics. In slaughtering French citizens as they enjoyed a normal social life in cafes, bars and theatres, Islamist bombers are merely following in the bloodstained footprints of plenty of other armed lunatics before them, Provisional IRA not least.

The scenes in Paris - overturned tables and chairs outside cafes; blood smears on the pavement; discarded belongings littering the streets - were reminiscent of those recorded by witnesses after the bombing of the Abercorn restaurant in Belfast in 1972, a blast which ended the lives of two female nurses who'd stopped off for a coffee while shopping.

A few months later, on Bloody Friday, the IRA repeated the same tactic, unleashing a wave of bomb attacks at hotels, shops and bus stations across the city that left nine dead. That bloodbath was the Provos' answer to the breakdown of talks with the British Government, for which Gerry Adams had been specially released from internment.

Thankfully, the IRA doesn't make its arguments with Semtex these days, and Sinn Fein is committed to the peace process. As such, Gerry Adams was quick to distance himself from Friday's attack, issuing a statement: "The deplorable attacks tonight in Paris are to be condemned."

The words were mechanical, but they're definitely an improvement on the days when the SF leader pointedly refused to engage in what he called "the politics of condemnation".

Ultimately, though, what does it mean unless it's accompanied by a deeper reflection on the violence which the IRA formerly inflicted on victims every bit as innocent? Is Paris less justifiable in their eyes only because the death toll was higher?

There's nothing wrong with repenting or changing one's mind, but that's not what Adams has done. He continues to retrospectively endorse, in fact honour, the violence in Northern Ireland that he now deplores in Paris. Post-peace process, he also remains one of the leading members of the "it's terrible, but …" brigade.

There are plenty of them around and they all crawled out of the woodwork after Friday's horror. In Dublin, they're represented by left-wing, anti-establishment groups enjoying a rennaissance in the economic downturn.

Their British counterparts have gone one better, managing to wrestle control of the Labour Party. Supporters of new leader Jeremy Corbyn wasted no time at all in deciding that the real cause of these latest murders was not a fascistic religious death cult which wants to drag the world back to the Middle Ages, but Western society itself. They're more careful about the language they use these days, and Corbyn himself has now cancelled a speech at a conference in England at which he was expected to argue that taking the fight to the West's enemies, such as Islamic State, will merely make us more of a target.

So what? We do nothing? Just cross our fingers and hope that Muslim extremists will come to their senses?

The ability to move on with such indecent haste from initial sympathy with the victims in Paris to effectively saying that they had it coming because of France's involvement in armed action against Islamic State in Syria is indicative of the skewed moral compass which continues to inform such ambivalent thinking on terrorist violence.

Just because military action against extremists might provoke retaliation doesn't mean it's wrong to target them or that their violent reaction is therefore justified.

Those indulging over the weekend in an orgy of politically correct whataboutery are wilfully undermining the collective will to resist and defeat terrorism. In effect, they're acting as a propoganda arm of Islamic State. Their quibble is with the gunmen's methods, not their arguments, but one feeds off the other. Endorsing one aspect of extremist ideology makes its inevitable that it will seek repeated expression in violent form.

That's why the intellectual confusion evident in Adams' response is so dangerous. He wanted to make Paris all about Ireland, tweeting that it was "another terrible reason 4 making (the) peace process work." That's always the way. Death is never terrible enough that it can't be used as a bargaining tool to get concessions. The threat is subtle, but it's there.

The insidious ambivalence among left-wing malcontents about what happened in Paris carries the same unspoken ultimatum: go easier on these maniacs, or else. Stop fighting them where they're strongest, or they'll hit back at us where we're weakest, and we'll have asked for it.

The correct response to mass death on the streets of European cities is not to give those who carried it out a sick legitimacy by treating their mouthpieces, either at home or abroad, as if they have a point. It's not possible to find an honourable compromise with fanatics whose only demand is that we submit and die.

If it does come down to a choice between them or us, the moral equivocators need to decide which side they're on.

Right now it looks as if they're more outraged at the prospect of the West defending itself than they are about defenceless Westerners being butchered.

Belfast Telegraph


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