The security forces need funds and support to tackle terrorism

Morning View
Morning View

The Irish republican terrorist threat now in Great Britain is considered to be significant.

This is a depressing, but not a new, scenario.

Republican terrorism was a major threat in GB in the 1980s and 90s.

The Home Secretary Theresa May outlined the threat in the House of Commons yesterday, and said that the government was working “with the police and other relevant authorities to ensure appropriate security measures are in place”.

Ms May went on to say that the dissidents “command little support”. This is clearly so. Even the Provisional IRA, which had much more significant levels of support, never persuaded more than a third of the Province’s nationalist electorate to support its political wing, Sinn Fein.

One of the newer dissident labels is ‘New IRA’, which, with Oglaigh na hEireann, has been behind most of the attacks on members of the security forces.

Regardless of how little support the dissidents may have, they do have capability. An alarming illustration of this was the murder of prison officer Adrian Ismay in March.

The security forces need support and funds in tackling this threat, particularly the police and intelligence services. The latter will no doubt be searching for informers.

The success rate in convicting political murderers and would-be murderers is low. This is because the state adheres to extremely high levels of proof, as it did during the Troubles, and terrorists are skilled at covering their tracks.

The real story of the past was not of collusion, but of the restraint with which the state responded to terrorists, with courts often freeing men whom they thought were guilty.

One development that would be welcome in combatting the present threat is longer sentences for those terrorists who are convicted, but there is little appetite for that.

The absence of such support is regrettable, and makes the patient and difficult work of those who risk their lives to pursue the terrorists all the more admirable.