Bell condemns latestspate of murders

Eileen Bell MLA, Alliance Deputy Leader and Victims Spokesperson commented recently;

“I felt sick when I heard the UFF’s twisted ‘justification’ for the brutal murder of a young man on his way home from the pub just a few days ago.”

“Yesterday’s dissident republican murder of a civilian contractor near Londonderry was equally disgusting, and I unequivocally condemn both of these horrific killings.”

“As I was preparing to write this article, I believed we may have been heading back onto the road towards a normal society. That hope was shattered by the sound of yesterday’s republican bomb and recent loyalist gunfire.”

“Gerard Lawlor and another innoceent young man join the sad list of innocent men ruthlessly murdered by paramilitaries over the past year. I am left mystified as to how this has taken the loyalist or republican cause forward. These opponents of peace have no public support or political mandate, and I hope the people come out in their thousands at Belfast City Hall today, to drive that message home.”

“Earlier signs had been encouraging. Some positive leadership had been evident in the events surrounding the most contentious marches of July, both by the Orange Order and republican leaderships. For once, many of us thought a summer might pass without sectarian murder. It was a hope too far.”

“There was also the IRA statement expressing remorse for killing civilians. While I hope this is the IRA’s way of beginning to say that their war is over, there is still a real need for it to fully acknowledge the pain caused to all victims, including members of the security forces.”

“The IRA should also demonstrate its bona fides regarding the durability of their ceasefire. That means ensuring units take no further part in violence, targeting, training or weapons buying, and work towards a situation whereby the IRA can begin to disband. Confidence-building, like decommissioning, must be an ongoing process.”

“Likewise, John Reid’s meeting with loyalists, including convicted UFF leader Johnny Adair, seemed to suggest that loyalist paramilitaries were looking for a way back into the political process.”

“Things seemed to be looking up. But as is so often the case in Northern Ireland, events on the ground conspired to dash that hope.”

“On the night Gerard Lawlor was murdered, the UDA/UFF were determined to kill a Catholic. As I was told by a loyalist prisoner in the Maze some years ago, “the order of the day was to kill as many Taigs as possible”. Unfortunately, nothing much seems to have changed, although anyone can get caught up in the crossfire.”

“That’s not to say republicans haven’t created victims too. One can only assume that those behind the first shooting on of a Protestant on the night Mr Lawlor died had mayhem in mind. They knew there would be retaliation. It would seem that certain republicans are prepared to sacrifice members of their own community for their own perverted reasons. A republican strategy? If so, a callous and cynical one.”

“Republican guns have certainly not been silent since the ceasefires. Five Protestants were shot in east Belfast recently, seriously heightening tension. The matters of the ‘Colombian three’s’ weapons activities and the Castlereagh police station robbery have yet to be resolved, while paramilitary attacks such as kneecapping and the murder of drug dealers continue to cause concern.”

“What is happening on the streets is killing the peace process. It’s long past time to get tougher on terrorism. If Tony Blair can send thousands of troops to Afghanistan and take on a global terror network, then he should be able to handle the situation on his own doorstep.”

“If he can’t, he is letting down all the people of Northern Ireland and is in real danger of becoming an international embarrassment, rather than an international peacekeeper.”

“The public is fed up with the Government’s softly-softly approach so far, which has stretched its credibility to near breaking point.”

“A new mechanism must be put in place to rebuild public confidence in a process often seen as operating in a moral vacuum. At the same time, it must effectively deter terrorism, because when people look outside their windows or switch on the TV, they find it difficult to believe that the ceasefires are intact.”

“It is startlingly obvious that both unionist and nationalist terrorists have the ability to turn the violence on and off as it suits them. Yet the Government has been reluctant to take steps, as it believes that to do so would be to unleash the terrorists from whatever constraints a so-called ceasefire holds on them.”

“But we must also have honesty. At Hillsborough, Alliance asked Tony Blair and John Reid to consider shining a spotlight on the ceasefires, by setting up the post of an international observer who could assess what their status is, and report to the Government.”

“Such a person could restore some much-needed integrity to the process, ensuring that the truth is no longer swept under the carpet for the sake of political expediency.”

“Dr Reid also spoke about tightening up the laws on tackling terrorism. He knows these will need to be more than short-term sticking-plaster solutions if he is to convince the public of the Government’s commitment to peace. He knows the police need adequate resources to protect us all and root out the killers in our communities.”

“We all want a normal society based on democracy, human rights and the rule of law. While the public might have been prepared to accept an imperfect peace that gradually gets better as the men of violence become more wedded to democratic politics, no-one should have to accept rising levels of violence.”

“The growing list of terrorist victims in ‘peacetime’ Northern Ireland is poor testament to the Government’s determination to taking on the paramilitaries. If Tony Blair can’t provide the necessary leadership in this respect, then for the Assembly and everyone else in Northern Ireland, the future is far from bright. As Tony Blair said at Hillsborough, things aren’t as bad as they were 10 years ago – but they are an awful lot worse than we expected when the Agreement was signed.”


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