Fintan O’Toole: If murderous dissidents are wrong, so was Provisional IRA

Sinn Féin has to stop legitimising terror

Mary Lou McDonald, leader of Sinn Féin. Photograph:  Stephen Collins/Collins Photos

Mary Lou McDonald, leader of Sinn Féin. Photograph: Stephen Collins/Collins Photos

Just four days before the general election, the PSNI found a viable bomb attached by magnets to a refrigerated trailer parked in the Silverwood industrial estate in Lurgan, Co Armagh. The bomb had been placed there some days earlier by the Continuity IRA in the expectation that the trailer would be loaded on to a ferry bound for Scotland. The PSNI believed the aim was to blow up the ferry on January 31st, Brexit day. The Continuity IRA denied this and said the bomb was intended to be smuggled to Britain: “It was timed for Britain’s exit from the EU and to bring attention to the sea border.” Either way, the device could have killed any number of entirely innocent people.

Shouting 'Up the ‘Ra' is not a performance by historical re-enactors – it is a live device, primed to explode into contemporary reality

 In the Republic, news of this incident was rather swamped by the imminence of the election and the polls showing the high probability of a surge towards Sinn Féin. But it is worth revisiting, precisely because of that surge. For many voters, especially those too young to remember the Troubles, the IRA’s 30-year campaign of violence is “the past”. To make an issue of it now is to introduce an irrelevance, for no reason other than to deny the legitimacy of Sinn Féin’s electoral success. But this is a past with a very active afterlife.

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