Two atrocities that illustrated the true nature of terrorism

News Letter editorial
News Letter editorial

It was the 25th anniversary of the republican murder of Ian Gow yesterday, while today is the 40th anniversary of the loyalist murders of the Miami Showband.

Both were appalling acts of paramilitary terror.

The 1975 Miami Showband massacre was a notably sickening atrocity because it involved a young and emerging and very popular band.

The murders were an illustration of the fact that loyalist terrorism was mostly incompetent and depraved and the work of psychopaths. That three of the murderers were rogue, thuggish members or former members of the security forces was a shameful component of the massacre.

Ian Gow’s 1990 murder was a despicable act of cowardice that revealed the Provisional IRA’s contempt for democracy.

For all their rhetoric about fighting a war, PIRA did kill people merely because they despised their views: Rev Robert Bradford, Norman and James Stronge, Edgar Graham. When the Stronges were slaughtered in 1981, Sir Norman was aged 86, and the IRA barely even tried to apply a military fig leaf, describing old man and son as “symbols of hated unionism”.

Mr Gow was brave to give up his ministerial career in protest at the Anglo-Irish Agreement, an act of appeasement towards Dublin, which had repeatedly failed to extradite IRA killers. Margaret Thatcher is said later to have regretted the pact, when the Irish failed to up their game against terror (of course they didn’t – any unionist would have forewarned her).

Mr Gow was brave also to associate with a cause that could lead to him suffering serious physical harm, as indeed it did.

History is being rewritten to justify terrorism retrospectively (although barely anyone even tries to justify loyalist brutality beyond the disgusting suggestion that it was OK to shoot Catholics because it was retaliatory).

But many people now justify IRA murder, often indirectly. The range of that group’s targets – young, old, politicians, civilians – helps illustrate that they were in fact criminal savages fuelled by seething sectarian hatred.