There is no possible excuse for leniency towards dissidents

News Letter editorial
News Letter editorial

It is reported that the Oglaigh na hEireann (ONH) might be signalling an end to its armed campaign.

That is welcome if so, but it is certainly not something for which dissidents should get praise.

Northern Ireland has battled against terrorism since the late 1960s, when it resumed after the failed earlier campaign of the 1950s.

The latter campaigns, those of the Troubles, caused untold misery and not only failed to achieve a united Ireland, they greatly exacerbated division and ill-feeling on the island and put back by decades relations between the societies on either side of the border.

The police and intelligence services are doing heroic and patient work today in trying to thwart the current generation of terrorists and where possible bring them to justice.

That hard work is all the more admirable given the disgracefully lenient bail and sentencing policy that currently prevails in regard to those charged with or convicted of serious dissident crime.

Despite that leniency, there is never any shortage of republican apologists who want things to be more lenient still, by advising talks with the dissidents or even lighter treatment in prison than they already enjoy. Not only must this not happen, both unionists and the British government ought to make full support for a robust security response to dissident terror a core demand in coming years if devolution returns.

We have been told that a party previously closely linked to the Provisional IRA must at all times be included if Stormont is to be allowed to function. The very least that can be demanded in those circumstances is that the IRA’s heirs are not led to think that they too will be rewarded for their violence.

The dissidents, like their Troubles predecessors, lack either a moral or a democratic mandate.

Support for the dissidents though is much smaller even than the Sinn Fein vote in the 1980s so there is no possible excuse for leniency towards these dangerous and violent people.