Northern Ireland is, to put it mildly, having a bad week. The murder, apparently by the Real IRA of two soldiers, in which four other people were seriously injured (deliberately, mind) shocked the governments and media at home and overseas (France24 had the best international coverage, strangely) and called back into memory the very worst of the bad days, when the senseless and entirely useless strategy of shooting off duty soldiers was the order of the day.

Killing in the name of… eh?

Let’s unpick that for a second. These Sappers, Mark Quinsey, 23, from Birmingham and Patrick Azimkar, 21, from Wood Green, London were killed at Massareene Army base in Antrim. Both the dead soldiers belonged to 25 Field Squadron of 38 Engineer Regiment. Theywere in Northern Ireland, off duty, preparing for deployment in Afghanistan, where their job would have involved building infrastructure and repairing facilities damaged by conflict. These were soldiers, trained first of course for combat, but not essentially combat troops, none of whose work would have been part of Operation Banner, and none of whom would have been active in Op Banner anyway.

They called for a pizza, the night before their final preparation for departure, and were gunned down for Irish Freedom. Except they weren’t. The vast majority of proud Irish citizens I have met since Sunday, of varied political sophistication, were entirely open and spoke with essentially one voice: not in our name, unacceptable, shameful. I should point out that I haven’t been soliciting these views, they are spurted out, spontaneously, as people in shock and disbelief do.

Continuity IRA

The shooting dead in another ambush, this time by the Continuity IRA, of a police officer responding to a woman’s distress call, beggared belief, and has thrown watchers into paroxysms of speculation, little of it helpful. Constable Stephen Paul Carroll, 48, a married man with children from the Banbridge area of County Down., was shot in the back of the head in the name of Éire Nua, except, again, he wasn’t.  The most commonly used words I heard in Dublin to describe the people behind the Policeman’s death today were ‘bastards’ and ‘stupid’.   It’s like these morons have suddenly awoken from a coma, and nobody’s bothered to tell them this crap no longer washes. And it is so weird to hear a big Dub go off on one against the shooting of British soldiers and police.

Martin McGuinness is waaay better than Gerry Adams

The fact that Martin McGuinness has stated clearly that these perpetrators are traitors to the people of Ireland should give some clue as to how non-mainstream they are.

The fact is, the army isn’t needed on the streets of Northern Ireland, thanks to Sir Hugh Orde’s excellent and well trained, widely accepted PSNI. He, correctly, identified the need for the Special Reconnaissance Regiment to be deployed (necessary in the face of what just happened) and has pressed ahead with his plans. Gerry Adams’ astoundingly continued opposition to the plan will, quite correctly, be listened to and steamrollered. The Chief Constable has the authority and the respect to continue on his course, so long as the Policing Board keeps a watchful eye.

The army aren’t coming back, and, with the broad republican community represented at all levels in the structures of power and discrimination less and less a fact of life, the new terrorists have no leverage at all on the democracy we’ve now established. So now it’s killing for the sake of it, the final refuge of a group with more guns than brains.

Enemies of the people, enemies of freedom, enemies of Ireland. For once , it’s easy to agree with Martin McGuinness.