Londoners are determined to defy terrorists in the same way the citizens of Northern Ireland did over four decades, two Ulster MPs have said.
Both Danny Kinahan and Sir Jeffrey Donaldson were inside the Palace of Westminster on Wednesday when an Islamic extremist – who was shot dead by police – launched an attack that claimed the lives of four people.
In a defiant message to a packed House of Commons on Thursday, Prime Minister Theresa May also said the British people “will never waver in the face of terrorism”.
Paying tribute to police constable Keith Palmer, who died after being stabbed, Mrs May said: “He was every inch a hero and his actions will never be forgotten.”
Police have named the attacker as 52-year-old Khalid Masood who came from Kent but was living in the West Midlands.
Ulster Unionist Danny Kinahan lost four friends and colleagues when the IRA mounted a bomb attack on Household Cavalry soldiers at London’s Hyde Park in 1982.
He said there was a sense of “quiet determination” in the area around Westminster, despite people being “stunned” by the incident.
“Everyone is just getting on with their life and determined to show that everything will work. It is the same resilience [as in Northern Ireland] all the way through,” Mr Kinahan said.
“I think it is the international side of the victims as well that’s really shown that people saying ‘we are to show that open for business’ and that ‘London is the greatest city in the world’.”
Comparing his sense of shock at the Westminster attack with the Hyde Park bombing, Mr Kinahan said: “This was slightly less personal. It was a disjointed feeling – being so close but actually nowhere near it.”
The South Antrim MP said that although “all terrorism is terrorism,” the actions of Islamic extremists were more “crackpot” in nature than in Northern Ireland.
“What [Wednesday’s attack] has done, is that it’s made people really appreciate the security staff and everyone that works here, particularly Pc Palmer.
“Here was someone who it fell on his lot to stop the guy coming in and he did it. He was unarmed and he just did his duty. He was a hero in front of us all and I think we have all learned that there are these amazing people all around us.”
Mr Kinahan said now was not the moment to raise the plight of police officers and security force members who are being brought before courts up to 45 years after fatal shootings, but added; “Certainly in time it is something we are going to look at, to make sure that we are not hauling back [before the courts] people that were heroes today. It’s certainly in the back of my mind, but what we have to do today is praise those who deserve to be praised.”
Sir Jeffrey Donaldson, speaking as he returned to Westminster having attended an event where he spoke with Prince Charles, said the prince displayed the same defiant attitude evident in the wider community.
“He was determined that it would go ahead so that the message it sent out from the very top, all the way to the ordinary people in London who are going about their daily business, is that the terrorists will not win,” Mr Donaldson said.
“I’ve been out and about today in London and people are getting on with their lives – they are going to work and kids are going to school. I think the resilience that people in Northern Ireland showed during our 30 years of the Troubles is matched by the resilience of Londoners.
“It’s part of that British spirit that saw us through two world wars. Despite the adversity and the danger that people face, they are absolutely determined to get on their lives and that spirit is prevalent in London today.”
Commenting on the overall security picture and the ramifications of fatal shootings involving police, the Lagan Valley MP said: “When you consider that 13 major terrorist incidents have been prevented in London alone in recent years, through the diligence and good work of the security services and the police, I think it’s an indication that the UK is well ahead when it comes to countering terrorism and violent extremism, but we shouldn’t be complacent.”
Mr Donaldson said the experience of Northern Ireland demonstrates “the need to be careful” about how we respond to terrorist attacks, but added: “At the same time we need to ensure that the men and women who put themselves in harm’s way to protect the community are themselves protected, and not just in terms of bodily protection, but that they are given adequate legal support and protection as well.”