The full extent of Republican terrorist violence in Northern Ireland has been spelt out in the Independent of Sunday (IoS) today. But before we go into the details, it is important to apply some necessary context and explain where blame resides.
Anyone who has read Heather Brooke’s excellent book ‘The Silent State’ will remember her examples of how authority tries to hide the reality of crime and makes it all but impossible to get meaningful information about what crime is being perpetrated and where.
The approach makes it easier for the authorities to proclaim their approach to reducing crime is working – even though crime figures are nothing more than the extrapolated findings of the regular British Crime Survey of around 40,000 people . Crime hotspots are missed, certain offences are excluded (such as murder) and until recently crimes against minors were not counted. The reality on the ground for people living in our neighbourhoods does not tally with the impression of sunlit uplands presented by the government.
This has long been the case in Northern Ireland.
The difference with Northern Ireland is that there has been a collusion between the authorities and the media to play down the simmering violence that has continued in the years since the Good Friday Agreement. The authorities wanted to portray Northern Ireland as having thrown off terrorism and having moved into a era of peace and prosperity.
The reality on the ground was very different, but outside of Northern Ireland people looking on the BBC NI web pages would have long thought the official line was the truth. Incidents that were taking place around the province were being reported in the local media – after all the reality could not be hidden from locals – but there was a blackout elsewhere in the UK.
Now that has all changed. The extent of the violence and significance of the terrorist incidents could not be hidden any longer once the Police Service of Northern Ireland starting asking for more money and resources to combat the ‘dissident’ threat after pressure from the Northern Ireland public. With the cat out of the bag the BBC finally started filing news stories that reflected the reality of the low intensity conflict. But the damage had already been done. Many people in the UK are left with the impression that the Republican terrorists have spontaneously re-emerged to shatter the peace, when all along peace was an illusion.
The only thing that has changed is the Republican terrorists have enhanced their capability and, rather than just injuring PSNI and military personnel, have been successful in killing soldiers and police officers. There has been an increase in incidents, but there was always a substantial number of incidents taking place.
What has prompted this post today? It is nearly six months since this blog explained the reality of the situation and added that:
The breakneck effort to drawdown security forces in Northern Ireland and decommission assets necessary to combat terrorist activity has given the republican groups the space to recruit, train and carry out attacks. The pandering to IRA/Sinn Fein by the Labour government, which is carrying on under the faux Conservatives, has increased the threat in Northern Ireland and restored a threat to mainland Britain.
Does anyone think this security force drawdown would have been allowed to happen if the UK public were more aware of what was really going on in Northern Ireland? Does anyone think the increased tempo of Real IRA and Continuity IRA attacks would have happened if the drawdown had not taken place?
The BBC should shoulder a substantial proportion of the blame because anyone in the UK reading its Northern Ireland news page would be shocked to learn what the IoS has reported today. For we learn that between 2008-2010 there were no less than 272 paramilitary attacks – around two per week – and of those only 12 cases have been solved by the PSNI. In 2010-11 alone there were 100 incidents involving bombs.
The BBC only started reporting stories in detail when they could no longer be hidden away with one paragraph snippets buried with obscure one line headlines. Despite its best efforts to hold the line for the establishment, the BBC has finally been forced to lay bare the truth. A comment by Terry Spence, chairman of the Police Federation of Northern Ireland, validates everything this author has been asserting here and elsewhere for some years:
“We are extremely concerned at the growing level of violence, over 200 bomb and gun attacks on police, Army and civilian targets over the past 18 months… We are back to looking under our cars again.” He accused the Government of having an “over-eager desire to portray Northern Ireland as a normal trouble-free society, when there is evidence of a growing terrorist threat which points to the contrary.”
Sadly, although he has spoken about this before in 2009 and 2010, Mr Spence was at least two years late in going public with comments on this subject. Denial by the government, PSNI and media has allowed terrorism in Northern Ireland to flourish, and we have the latest lethal example of how the establishment has failed the people it is supposed to serve. Instead too much focus was devoted to self serving agendas. How can people have any trust in the politicians, police and media when their spin has been so comprehensively shattered?