The sorry contrast in Spain and Britain’s approaches to terror

Morning View
Morning View

It is hard to read about the disarmament of ETA after the utter failure of their long terrorist campaign, and not feel dismay at the contrast with how terror has been treated there and in Northern Ireland.

Here, unionists were put under pressure to share power with the political wing of republican terrorism, at the behest of London, which was not prepared to stand up to the insistence of the SDLP and Dublin.

In Spain and France, Madrid and Paris stood firm against the Basque separatists, who murdered more than 800 people over a period of 40 or so years.

In Northern Ireland, Sinn Fein soared electorally as a result of its inclusion at the helm of the political process.

No matter what the IRA did after reaching that point, Sinn Fein was never specifically penalised.

The party knows that it cannot be excluded from the political process and it is demonstrating that knowledge very clearly now.

It is still possible that a more constructive side to the republican party will emerge this week, and that it will compromise on its long list of demands.

But if that does not happen, then there must be a return to direct rule rather than hurried concessions on key points, causing lasting damage to Northern Ireland.

The story that we report on page eight today from Newry, Mourne and Down district council gives a glimpse of the divisive way that Sinn Fein might use an Irish Language Act.

Spain banned the political wing of ETA.

Now, here in Northern Ireland, the political wing of the IRA is so emboldened that it believes that (on 28% of the overall vote) it can demand of the British government legacy structures that it seems to feel sure will vindicate its violence.

The contrast between the two approaches to terrorism, that of Spain and France in contrast to that of the UK, is a sorry one.