Following two attacks by Irish Republican Army (IRA) splinter groups this week, Northern Ireland is on edge, fearing a return to the “Troubles” — the three decades of violence that killed more than 3,300 people until the 1998 Good Friday peace accord.
In the first attack on Sunday, the Real IRA gunned down two British soldiers. The next day, the Continuity IRA killed a member of the Police Service of Northern Ireland.
The attacks threatened the province’s fragile coalition government of Protestants and Catholics. Officials on both sides of the Irish border are still searching for a bomb rumored to have been smuggled into Northern Ireland by the Real IRA.
In the wake of the attacks, thousands have gathered for peace rallies across the country.
Several Twitter users describe peace vigils in Belfast, including:
@sharp_words: (Northern Ireland) Just back in office after attending peace vigil in Belfast, 1000s there, good show of solidarity.
@Leib13: (Belfast) Was glad to be at the peace vigil outside City Hall in Belfast today. Good to see so many people wanting an end to this insanity.
Watch a video of a gathering of Unionists at a peace rally in Belfast from YouTube user unionistbilly:
An Irish blogger at “Cultured Views” writes that the people of Northern Ireland do not want a return to violence and must stand behind police:
I really do not want this blog to become overly political, but in light of recent events here in Northern Ireland it would be inappropriate not to comment on what is happening and what people are saying.
[…]The people here right now are determined that these recent events will NOT result in revisiting the dark days of the Troubles; they do not want retaliations; they do not want a return to the suspicion and fear. People are shocked and saddened today but not looking for revenge when once they might have done.
We do not want to see large numbers of soldiers on the streets here anymore in fact the numbers of troops here had been reduced to just 5000 from a one-time figure of 30,000; armed watchtowers had been demolished – the army helicopters don’t buzz over certain areas anymore. In order to maintain this we have to support the police – the PSNI – in their role of finding the criminals who committed these acts of terror. This should not be a job for the army but the police can only succeed if the public cooperate – all people from all communities.
In any civilised country a good police force has the support of it’s citizens; Northern Ireland has to stand among them.
A blogger at “Talk Northern Ireland” deplores the attacks, but also warns the police against heavy-handed action that could exacerbate tension:
We have had peace too long to be dragged back to that mire we were in.
[…]All I can say to the attackers is: Stop now. We have moved on. It is time you moved on as well.
BUT a word to the PSNI, Britsh Government and our Unionist politicians…please, please do NOT repeat the mistakes of the 70s and 80s. Do NOT go the heavy handed policing route because of a few malconetents. You did this before and lok at the cost we had to endure. Think before you react.
A blogger at “A Tangled Web” writes to argue that contrary to messages of unity and peace, the attackers do enjoy support in Northern Ireland:
Contrary to what is being stated, the Irish republican terrorists who have murdered in Antrim and Craigavon DO enjoy significant support in certain areas. This may not have resulted in political support (yet) but they don’t care about that! They are sheltered, they are protected – they get away with bloody murder and their neighbours stay quiet. Just like they stayed quiet when IRA killers were active. Nothing is different.