The general relief at the return of devolved government to the North last week was not accompanied by the popping of champagne corks. Instead, a small bomb exploded under a bridge in Hammersmith, London.
It was a timely reminder of the kinds of obstacles that confront the new dispensation and threaten, at times, to overturn it in favor of the bloody ways of the past.
No one so far has claimed responsibility for the attack, which occurred in the early hours of June 1. But a dissident group, the so-called Real IRA, which slaughtered 29 Irish men women and children in Omagh in 1998, is the chief suspect.
This allegation has been followed in some conservative-leaning sections of the British press by sensational reports of the capacity of the RIRA to wreak havoc. Some reports mention that it possesses 1,000 pounds of the deadly explosive Semtex.
It is always wise to treat such stories with caution, particularly in view of their provenance and that they should suddenly appear just as the debate over reforming the North’s police force gets under way. However, this is not to diminish the dangers that exist on the fringe of the republican movement and the concomitant need for all sides in the peace process to show politics working. This is the only way to undermine whatever spurious claims groups such as the RIRA still make on behalf of their version of republicanism.
In the meantime, in Derry the first Sinn Fein mayor since Terence McSwiney took office. Cathal Crumley, a former prisoner, immediately extended the hand of friendship to all the people of the city, nationalist and unionist alike. This way he demonstrated where the future of Ireland lies: with the bridge builders, not the bridge bombers.
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