Editor's Viewpoint: Condemnation of Derry bombing has to be unequivocal
Once again dissident republicans have made dark headlines with a dastardly bomb attack in Londonderry on Saturday evening that could easily have killed people.
The attack was described by PSNI Assistant Chief Constable Mark Hamilton as "unbelievably reckless", and he was absolutely right to do so.
Senior police officers are bound, no doubt, by certain protocols when making public statements, but he and many other people may well know there is another description of this behaviour. We call it "evil".
This is borne out by the sheer scale of the fear and upheaval caused. Residents living near the Derry Courthouse, in the area where the explosion occurred, had to be evacuated, as were hundreds of hotel guests, some 150 people from the local Masonic Hall, and a large number of children at a church youth club.
There was only a paltry warning from those who planted the bomb, and this was given to the Samaritans in England before being relayed to the police there, and then on to the PSNI. Only nine minutes elapsed between the PSNI receiving the warning and the explosion.
Thankfully the vehicle with the bomb inside was quickly located and the area was cleared in time to prevent loss of life or serious injury.
As ACC Hamilton said, this was a significant attempt to kill people. The callousness of this attack was shocking enough, but what makes it all the more depressing is the fact that certain elected representatives and senior academics cannot simply condemn it in straightforward terms without appearing to offer explanations which, ironically, even the perpetrators of this evil baulked at.
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East Londonderry SDLP MLA John Dallat was widely - and deservedly - criticised after posting on social media a comment that "not even the appalling behaviour of the Brits towards Ireland justifies this".
The reaction of Deirdre Heenan, Professor of Social Policy at Ulster University, seems even more tortured, and appears bizarrely to lay blame for the attack on Prime Minister Theresa May, citing: "Two years of no Government, decay, stagnation... Complete disinterest from your Government and acceptance of political stasis... a dereliction of duty... we deserve better."
It is profoundly dispiriting that senior politicians and public representatives cannot simply condemn terrorist attacks in forthright terms without indulging in such "whataboutery".
It must be possible to repudiate the bombers outright without leaving an ominous "but" hanging in the air.
This particular outrage in Derry is being blamed on the so-called New IRA.
However, the unpalatable facts about dissident republicanism remain unchanged from the days of their Provisional IRA precursors, and loyalist clones.
Such attacks are representative of no one but the micro-group that carries them out, and such anti-social behaviour deserves nothing but denunciation in unambiguous terms.
These micro-groups prey on their communities rather than protect them, and their pretensions to be "liberators" are as fraudulent as they are offensive.
We have said this many times before and make no apology for saying it again - the only place for dissident criminals is behind bars.
The Chief Constable must be given all the resources necessary to make arrests, and to gather the evidence to secure convictions. Politicians and others who feel that they cannot sign up to this should perhaps consider adopting a self-denying ordinance regarding their public utterances.