It was as predictable as it was pathetic. The so-called Real IRA’s bomb attack on a sorting office of a small London post office at the weekend took place just in time for the Easter commemorations.
The symbolism is as crude as was the gesture. Crude, yes, but potentially deadly. The bomb was small — still, one pound of high explosive can inflict a lot of damage in a crowded street. It went off not far from the busy Edgeware Road, without any warning.
It was the sixth bomb attack in London since last June that has been attributed to the dissident faction that split from the IRA in October 1997 because it was opposed to the peace process. Those attacks have been carried out usually without warning. Just six weeks earlier a bomb was set off in taxi near the headquarters of the BBC. Before that came an attack on the headquarters of MI6, Britain’s equivalent of the CIA.
So far there have been no fatalities, though a teenage boy lost a hand and an eye in a booby-trap bomb that exploded outside a security base in the British capital last fall. It is only a matter of time before that changes, unfortunately. It is hard not to kill people if you leave bombs lying around in public places.
Let us look at the symbolism of Saturday’s attack on the post office. No doubt it was meant to recall the 1916 Rebellion, the 85th anniversary of which is celebrated this week. James Connolly led his men into the GPO in Dublin where the rebels declared an independent Irish republic. That declaration proclaimed that the new state would cherish all its citizens, regardless of their political aspirations. The Real IRA claims to have inherited that mantle. Yet the same organization can leave a 500-pound car bomb in an Irish market town on a Saturday afternoon, so ensuring that the most appalling injuries are inflicted on innocent people. Is that how the Real IRA cherishes the Irish people?
There is no intellectual or historical, much less moral, basis for such an organization to claim the mantle of the men and women of 1916, who would turn in their graves at the suggestion of even a comparison. They, after all, surrendered, rather than cause any more suffering to the citizens of Dublin. Their bravery stands in stark contrast to the cowardly attacks of their self-proclaimed "successors."
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In the meantime, Britain must not allow these wrecking efforts to triumph over the political process in which it has engaged with the republican movement. Politics must prevail. The watchtowers that it refuses to dismantle in South Armagh can not see as far as the Edgeware Road in London.
The same need for faith in politics applies to the IRA. Weapons dumps do not enhance the political process. A meaningful gesture on the vexed issue of decommissioning is the surest way of doing that. It is only in this way that the dissident republicans will be undermined and thoroughly discredited. We must prove that the "I" in Real IRA stands for one thing only: "irrelevant."