Belfast Telegraph

Editor's Viewpoint: Anniversary is grisly reminder of our past

Lord Mountbatten
Lord Mountbatten

Editor's Viewpoint

In spite of how republicans might view it, this date, August 27, 40 years ago is a date of infamy. For it was then that the IRA scored a grisly success - in their opinion - when they killed Lord Mountbatten and members of his boat party off the coast of Sligo and, almost simultaneously, 18 soldiers on the shores of Carlingford Lough.

If ever there was an example of the ruthlessness and inhumanity of republican terrorism, then it was demonstrated on what happened on this date four decades ago.

Lord Mountbatten was a sitting target. He visited his residence in Co Sligo every year and although repeatedly warned of IRA plots on his life, he shrugged them off with all the indifference of his military class.

As a new book reveals, the plots were real enough and the terrorists struck after his protection detail was stood down. It was the first year his boat had not been guarded or searched before setting sail.

The bomb which killed the 70-year-old earl also killed his nephew, a 15-year-old Enniskillen schoolboy acting as his boatman and the Dowager Lady Brabourne, as well as injuring several others. The IRA knew there would be children and an elderly lady on board but that did not divert them from their deadly mission.

The killing of the soldiers, mostly paratroopers, at Narrow Water the same day was equally vicious in its planning and execution. Not content with killing six in the first explosion, the bombers waited until rescuers came on the scene and detonated a second bomb, killing 12 more.

According to an article in this newspaper today, the late Martin McGuinness, who ended his life as deputy First Minister of Northern Ireland, was at that time Chief of Staff of the IRA and directly involved in the planning of the outrages. While he may have made a remarkable conversion to politics in later life, that cannot disguise a hideous past.

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The opportunity for republicans to be involved in politics was always present but instead they believed murder and mayhem without apology would bring about their Holy Grail of a united Ireland.

McGuinness eventually recognised they could not win the war. They could lose it without any gains and entry into politics, masterminded by his good friend Gerry Adams, was the escape route.

Those dissidents who today still yearn to kill and maim their way to Irish unity should heed the lessons of the past. Violence cannot succeed beyond causing unending grief.

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