On Wednesday, senior political figures including the President of Ireland Michael D. Higgins, Irish Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and UK Prime Minister Theresa May travelled to the city of Derry in Northern Ireland to pay homage to a young journalist, Lyra McKee, who was fatally shot during riots there a week ago.
The presence of the political leaders was far more than simply attending the funeral services — it was meant as a statement of unity and intent that the people of Ireland and Britain will not tolerate any suggestion that an armed struggle has any place in politics on the island of Ireland.
McKee was killed as she stood next to police officers who were monitoring a riot, and the New Irish Republican Army said it was responsible for her murder, have apologised, and offered by way of explanation that its two volunteers were targeting those police officers.
Simply put, that’s an abdominal and pathetic reasoning for the murder of a young journalist, and even more reprehensible that the group should offer as an excuse that they meant to kill someone else instead.
For too long and for too many families, violence in Northern Ireland ripped apart communities and villages, destroying the hopes of a generation caught up in a cycle of bombings, shootings and tit-for-tat violence. That campaign came to an end 25 years ago when the Provisional IRA and other paramilitary groups agreed to a ceasefire, put their energies into trying to find a political solution, and they agreed to disband.
It took four more years, the intervention of the administration of US President Bill Clinton, and courageous politicians on both sides of the Irish Sea for the Northern Ireland Good Friday accord to be signed. That deal has largely eliminated the border, saw the gun removed from the province’s politics, and committed both sides to a peace process.
This New IRA is far removed from the realities of Northern Ireland, clinging to a brutal tribalism and outdated republican philosophy that is out of time. They do not represent the people of the Creggan, nor Derry, nor Northern Ireland, nor Ireland itself.
The peace that has held sway in Northern Ireland cannot be dismantled by these terrorists who yearn for a different time, a different place. There is nothing romantic amount inflicting pain and bloodshed; there is nothing acceptable about disrupting a hard-won peace, disrupting a process that has brought prosperity and a shifting of sands towards Irish unity.