Belfast Telegraph

Be they Isis or the IRA, all terrorists walk in the same bloody footsteps

By Nelson McCausland

Some years ago, the journalist Jim Cusack wrote a newspaper column which had the headline "Before the Taliban, there was the IRA". Now we can write a new headline: "Before Isis, there was the IRA".

The atrocity perpetrated by Isis in Paris has dominated the news over the past week, and rightly so.

Some people have used the word 'tragedy' to describe it, but this was far more than a tragedy - it was an atrocity. It was an act of the most extreme and appalling wickedness.

The word 'evil' has also been used widely during the past week, and I would suggest that the atrocity was both evil and satanic. The use of that word in relation to what Isis did in Paris is perfectly legitimate.

On one occasion, Jesus said to a crowd: "Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do. He was a murderer from the beginning."

On Monday morning, the Paris atrocity was raised in the Northern Ireland Assembly as a Matter of the Day, and members from all parties were able to speak about it.

The only member of Sinn Fein to speak was Mairtin O Muilleoir, who has a daughter living in Paris. However, I suspect that the real reason Sinn Fein chose him to be their speaker is that he is acknowledged not to have been involved in the Provisional IRA.

Several of the speakers from different parties referred to our experience of terrorism here in Ulster, and as they spoke I looked across the chamber at the members of Sinn Fein.

Time after time, there were those on the front bench whose heads were down and whose eyes looked down. As I looked across at them, I wondered what was going through their minds.

They knew very well that before Isis, there was the IRA, and they know more than any of us about the terrible atrocities perpetrated by the organisation in which they had once served.

Caral Ni Chuilin was arrested on a Provisional IRA bombing mission and was convicted of attempted murder. Jennifer McCann shot an RUC officer, and Martin McGuinness was the leader of the Provisional IRA in Londonderry.

There was Bloody Friday in Belfast in July 1972, when the IRA detonated 22 bombs in the space of 80 minutes and murdered nine people in the heart of our capital city.

The following year, the IRA detonated two car bombs in Coleraine and murdered six Protestants.

There were also the Birmingham pub bombings in November 1974, in which the IRA murdered 21 civilians. Is it any wonder that so many Sinn Fein MLAs sat with their heads down?

Year after year, IRA atrocity followed IRA atrocity, and 12 civilians were burned to death in 1978 when IRA incendiary bombs destroyed the La Mon restaurant.

There was also the Remembrance Day bombing in Enniskillen, in which 11 people were murdered and many more injured. Eight construction workers were murdered by the IRA at Teebane, and nine people were murdered by the IRA in the Shankill bombing.

These are just some examples of the many IRA atrocities, and so it is not surprising that some Sinn Fein MLAs sat with their heads down.

We have seen some horrific scenes as regards the atrocity in Paris, but they are no different from those that were perpetrated by the Provisional IRA.

Back in 1972, the Government of Northern Ireland Information Service published a booklet entitled The Terror and the Tears, which highlighted IRA atrocities.

As I looked at the pictures coming from Paris, it was clear that the terror was the same and so were the tears.

That is exactly why the people of Northern Ireland have a special understanding of the evil that was perpetrated in Paris.

Yes, before Isis, there was the IRA.

  • Nelson McCausland MLA is chair of the Assembly's culture, arts and leisure committee.

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