Ben Lowry: Meanwhile, there is no getting tough on NI terror

External damage to the van in which Adrian Ismay was travelling, which had an explosive device attached to it.

External damage to the van in which Adrian Ismay was travelling, which had an explosive device attached to it.

Even before 911 America would not have tolerated terror against its citizens. It certainly has not done so since.

Britain to an extent did tolerate terror during the Troubles, despite the Prevention of Terrorism Acts. They included provisions that were modest compared to Tony Blair’s 2005 bid to detain terror suspects 90 days without charge.

But Great Britain will not now – as the Choudary conviction shows – be so tolerant in the face of the murderous Islamic threat, which since 2001 everyone has understood could result in a cataclysmic attack (my take on Choudary here).

France certainly will not tolerate this threat after its spate of atrocities and nor will Belgium or Germany. The latter has barely been touched by the Islamic threat but has had a recent foretaste of it. The country previously had to deal with Baader Meinhof but not groups that want to massacre civilians en masse.

Most of these countries, with the exception of the US, have traditionally been high minded about human rights. Now they will see how terrorists take advantage of rights and freedoms and their populations will not have this be put above their own right to life.

But in Northern Ireland we will have to tolerate terror. There is no tough response to would-be murderers in sight.

The claim that dissidents suffer internment is such an inversion of the truth it would be hilarious if it wasn’t for the fact that they have fooled people such as Eamon O’Cuiv TD to think they are badly treated.

Some dangerous dissidents are free men. The police and intelligence services will do their best to bring these people to justice. But there have over the years been acquittals of men who are believed to be leading dissidents on the basis of very strong evidence that is judged to fall short of the ‘beyond all reasonable doubt’ threshold.

Some terrorists who have been convicted have been freed after serving modest sentences.

In one case last week a man convicted in relation to a bomb attempt escaped jail altogether, partly because he had served time on remand.

There are question marks over bail policy too.

This year the man charged with murdering Adrian Ismay got bail from one judge, which was not revoked by another when he did not respond to a police call as per his curfew and was not revoked by a third judge when there was an issue with his tag.

He is of course innocent unless and until proven otherwise but the case raised wider issues so I asked the courts: why were police and prosecutor calls for revoke refused?

The Human Rights Act, they said (in essence).

That is the act the current government is demonised for wanting to repeal.

If dissidents carry out another Omagh there be will cross-border denunciation. There will be heavy scrutiny of the security forces – the people who keep us safe – to see if they did enough to stop it and if they investigated it well.

But don’t count on scrutiny of a culture that treats terrorists so kindly.

Ben Lowry (@BenLowry2) is News Letter deputy editor

Ben Lowry: Hate preacher Choudary had to be prosecuted but our liberty is suffering