When Michelle O’Neill spoke at a recent event in Clonoe to eulogise a gang of would-be murderers, she said of the terrorists who were disrupted in their mission: ‘they did not go looking for war, war came to them’.
No doubt she will offer a similar view when she speaks this weekend to praise eight terrorists who were stopped in their tracks as they launched an unprovoked attack on an isolated community police station in May 1987.
That particular IRA gang came equipped with a 200lb Semtex bomb and an arsenal of firearms that included three H&K G3 rifles, one FN FAL rifle, two FN FNC rifles, a Franchi SPAS-12T shotgun and a Ruger Security-Six revolver.
By any standard this is an excessive array of illegally-held weapons and munitions, but particularly so for a group of men who, in Sinn Fein terms, weren’t looking for a fight in a sleepy rural village with – as they thought – two lightly armed policemen.
In that instance, war did come to the terrorists, but only after they had detonated a bomb and prepared to shoot to death anyone in Loughgall RUC station.
In Sinn Fein-speak, the terrorist operation was a ‘legitimate’ action so we shouldn’t be surprised the current leadership is repeating that same mantra of the IRA in the 1980s.
It shows Sinn Fein has a long road to travel on the path to understanding reconciliation whilst its leadership continues to legitimise the use of terrorism in the pursuit of political goals.
Terrorist attacks were as illegal, anti-democratic and immoral in 1987 as they are today.
Any attempt to re-frame the actions of terrorist killers should be firmly rejected by all; otherwise society is at risk of accepting terrorism as an acceptable alternative or accompaniment to the ballot box.
It never was, and never will be.
Trevor Clarke, DUP councillor, Coleraine