Paramilitary displays cannot be tolerated in a peaceful society

Morning View
Morning View

It should be no more than we expect – men arrested after an illegal paramilitary display.

Yet in reality the 14 arrests in Strabane yesterday have sparked widespread surprise and joy.

The legal system will now take its course, and we would not try to pre-empt that. But we can safely talk about the past approach to menacing displays – it has been reticent.

There is no doubt that the police are put in a hugely difficult position by displays at funerals. Republicans are adept propagandists, and quick to play the victim (a status in which they are assisted by the likes of the Fianna Fail TD Eamon O’Cuiv, who has been back and forth to Northern Ireland alleging heavy handed treatment of dissident terrorists).

If the police were to wade into the middle of a family’s grief, the PSNI would be depicted as the villains.

But there is a greater problem with appeasing these displays. They just happen again and again. Endlessly facilitating republicans does not work. In the Ardoyne in 2012, dissident republicans did not get precisely what they wanted in terms of a full Orange return walk ban and so they rioted wildly and were granted their full ban the next year. This brought about peace in republican areas, but means that the next time dissidents don’t get their way rioting will be worse.

We cannot live in a society in which republican terrorists are murdering people, most recently Adrian Ismay, and displays are allowed. Try to imagine the people of Paris, Brussels or London tolerating masked Isis supporters on their streets.

Most people in Northern Ireland are already dismayed at the way in which the Provisional terror campaign is being legitimised. There is now a huge push for funding for legacy inquests into alleged state ‘failures’, including the SAS thwarting of ruthless IRA murderers at Loughgall, while one IRA war crime massacre fades into the past without justice.

Ongoing displays just suggest that this cycle of appeasement will grind on. If yesterday indicated that that is not the case, then that is very welcome.