I had intended to write a light hearted blog piece tonight. However, as I type, a blast bomb has been thrown, presumably by dissident republicans, at a police car, just off the Whiterock Area of West Belfast. Another booby trap device was discovered in the Black’s Road area earlier today.
For anyone who doesn’t know the Whiterock area, its busy, there are shops and bars and taxi places, and more importantly, ordinary people going about their lives, even at 10:20pm on a Friday night. The local supermarket is open 24 hours, and there are a number of petrol stations along that route. The Falls and Whiterock roads are busy thoroughfares through parts of West Belfast.
Which makes the throwing of a large blast bomb, so large it was heard throughout the city, an act of pure unadulterated madness. Any bomb, anywhere, thrown at any “target”, is of course wrong, but what makes this particular act all the more sinister is the wreckless disregard for injuries to people from within the community from which these bombers came. At the time of writing, four civilians have been treated for shock, and a car belonging to a family, was hit by shrapnel.
The intended “target” was a police vehicle, which can only point to dissident republicans as the culprits. The vehicle was damaged but the occupants, thankfully, uninjured. Armed dissident groups in West Belfast have been growing over the last number of years, swelling their ranks by mopping up those disaffected by the peace process, local criminal elements, gangsters, former provisional militant republicans who no longer support Sinn Féin, and anybody else who shows a blatant disregard for a push towards a normalised, civilised society in the city. There are numerous groups, all at odds with each other, and with no cohesive political peaceful strategy . And nor do they want peace. Dissident republicans want agitation, a move away from the status quo that Sinn Féin moved the majority of its supporters towards, and they want to make themselves heard. There is an election looming, and dissidents are making their mark in advance of voters going to the polls.
If these particular types of dissident republicans actually took a step back and thought about the impact such actions had in the past on West Belfast residents, they might see that the people damaged most by their “operations”, are the ones who live there. When a pipe bomb, or suspect device is left, and police are called in to deal with the issue, it is ordinary residents who are moved out of their homes and inconvenienced, local schoolchildren who have to take the day off school, parents who have to take days off work to look after them, residents late for work, and appointments because they are stuck in traffic, and taxpayers who have to foot the bill, each time someone gets a bright idea to leave a suspect device in a residential area.
When local people are shot in the knees by inhuman thugs, lately by arrangement , not only are dissidents taking the law into their own hands and following the community enforcement taught to them by Provisional IRA members before them – but they are causing trauma to the injured, and the families around them. There is a benign acceptance for such attacks in inner city Belfast, but people are fooling themselves if they believe they are being “protected”. Sinn Féin are to be heard routinely condemning such attacks. While any condemnation is welcome, the irony of a party who created a vacuum in policing in West Belfast through the use of the IRA; and also by warning its residents that the police were neither welcome or acceptable, now loudly countering its own oft past peddled mantra is not lost.
Political dissident groups look set to take at least one council seat in West Belfast in the forthcoming elections, if they manage their vote well. Blast bomb attacks such as this will set that vote back. The people who threw the bomb tonight either don’t see that, or don’t care. By and large, people in West Belfast;once they began to get a taste of non-violence, do not wish to see its return. Even those opposed to Sinn Féin are mostly not in any way supportive of violent methods.
It’s time for militant dissident republicans to wake up. They claim to be fighting for a United Ireland, yet they are the diehards, the ones who refuse to accept that support for violence in whatever name, is a thing of the past. People just want to live their lives, and God knows its hard enough in some parts of West Belfast to do so. They don’t want to be put at risk by a few maniacs who care more about getting a “hit”, than about improving the quality of life of those around them. People just want to live. Let them.