A sinister dissident bid to instil fear in prison officers

Morning View

Morning View

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The attack on a prison officer in east Belfast yesterday was a despicable act of cowardice by dissident republican terrorists.

It is symbolic in a number of ways.

First, it has happened in the run-up to the centenary of the 1916 Easter Rising, and so can seek to associate itself with that rebellion (days after it emerged that a pro-dissident memorial was being erected in Lurgan, with wording that tries to link all republican groups past and present).

Second, it happened in a unionist area, and sends out a signal that dissidents can operate in a wide range of locations.

Third, it is another attack on a prison officer, which is a reminder of the callous murder of David Black in 2012.

The latter point is particularly alarming. Dissidents have been agitating at Maghaberry for some time, and alleging harassment and all the usual republican terrorist grievances. It is important that the various reports into alleged failures in the running of that prison do not result in any pandering to these violent thugs on account of their ‘human rights’.

Martin McGuinness yesterday joined a forceful denunciation of the murder bid issued with Arlene Foster, the first minister. It is welcome that Sinn Fein is not equivocating in response to such actions. But the incessant and distorted claims by mainstream republicans about the past actions of the security forces have given succour to those who argue that the British state is, and always has been, brutal.

We report today the alarming claim that no legacy police officers are working on the Enniskillen bomb while at times almost half of them are investigating Bloody Sunday. If true, this is further proof of the one-sided approach to the past.

Money should either be more fairly allocated between past Troubles crimes or it would be better spent on extra police and intelligence officers to track the terrorists of today.

And when they are found guilty of terrorists acts, they should be subject to much tougher jail terms than is currently the case.