Life in Northern Ireland is better than it was in 1994

Morning View
Morning View

The IRA ceasefire of August 31 1994 ended, as Alex Kane writes on these pages today, on February 9 1996 when republicans detonated a large bomb.

The Canary Wharf blast killed two people, Inan Bashir and John Jeffries, who had been working in a newsagents.

That the IRA chose the City of London as a target gives credence to the argument made by the former North Down MP, Robert McCartney, and others, that the ‘peace process’ that followed was a morally corrupt enterprise, primarily concerned with keeping bombs out of the City of London.

Other people would be murdered by the Provisionals after the collapse of the 1994 ceasefire, including John Graham and David Johnston. The RUC pair were shot dead at point-blank range in the back of the head while walking down the street in Lurgan in June 1997, weeks before the second ceasefire.

In hindsight, the 1996 end to the first ceasefire was the start of the split between the IRA and the dissidents. That return to violence may not have had full support in the IRA high command.

Much has changed in 20 years.

Few people seem to know for sure what has happened to IRA weapons, but it is widely accepted that most of them had indeed been put beyond use by 2005.

Decommissioning, and also the enshrining of Northern Ireland within the UK (backed even by 97 per cent of the Republic in the 1998 referendum), show that the IRA did not succeed.

The dissident threat today, while real and apparently growing, is hampered by technology in a way that the larger Provisional campaign was not.

The success of the MTV awards, the G8, the Giro d’Italia, and the Irish Open show how the Province has changed since 1994, let alone 1974.

All is not perfect. Unionists now face a long battle against the bid to write as history the lie that IRA violence was ever justified.

But life is markedly better in Northern Ireland than it was during the long years of the Troubles.