He was 12 years old when the Omagh bomb took place
Deaglán de Bréadún
The killing of the PSNI officer, Ronan Kerr, is a tragic development. Aged only 25 years, he would have been about 12 when the infamous Omagh bombing took place, causing a massive death toll which affected both sides of the community and included people from republican families in the town of Omagh and its environs.
Presumably someone passed information about Constable Kerr to his killers. Was it a person or persons in the locality or did it come from some other source – we will probably never know.
The fact that a Catholic police officer was targeted once again is worthy of note. In old-style republican terms, the PSNI are “agents of the British occupation”, and from that point of view the religion of its members should not be a deciding factor in choosing victims for attack. But there seems to be a deliberate policy of focusing on members of the minority faith in Northern Ireland.
During the Civil Rights days and the dreary decades beforehand, one of the prime grievances was the paucity of Catholic representation in the Royal Ulster Constabulary, predecessor of the PSNI. That issue was addressed in the Patten Report of 1999 and a strong policy of affirmative action to increase the proportion of recruits from a Catholic background was introduced.
This policy seems to have worked well. But it would appear that, in old-style republican eyes, the prospect of a police force that is balanced in its religious composition is seen as a threat. Maybe the thinking is that Catholics/Nationalists will start to get “too comfortable” with the Northern statelet, further reducing the potential base of support for irredentist nationalism.
The GAA has been taking a strong line over this latest atrocity. As I have written elsewhere, the GAA is in many ways the backbone of Irish nationhood in our time. If people who consider themselves republicans find themselves on the opposite side to the GAA, then they are in a very bad place from their own point of view.
Meanwhile, the democratic process seems to be working in favour of the Adams-McGuinness wing of the republican movement. They had a remarkably good election south of the Border and there is even talk of Martin McGuinness ending up as First Minister after the Stormont elections on May 5th. The astute Senator Eoghan Harris (who is not a fan of Sinn Fein by any means) wrote in his column in yesterday’s Sunday Independent about the significant progress the party is making in the Republic.
Surely the lesson for republicans is that democracy works in your favour, whereas kliling young men in their 20s, especially in such a cruel and heartless fashion, only incurs public odium and revulsion. On the other hand, if you were an old-style unionist/loyalist or a British imperialist of the Rudyard Kipling school, you would much prefer to see republicans taking this approach rather than the democratic road which is more likely to undermine the union in the longer term.