Belmont Club

Are the Troubles back?

The BBC describes official reaction to a “dissident” IRA attack on a British Army base which killed two and injured several others:

Gordon Brown has condemned an attack on an army base in Northern Ireland which killed two soldiers. … Mr Brown told the BBC: “I think the whole country is shocked and outraged at the evil and cowardly attacks on soldiers serving their country …

The attack comes shortly after Sir Hugh Orde, the chief constable of the Police Service of Northern Ireland, requested the Special Reconnaissance Regiment’s help to gather intelligence on dissident republicans.

Mr Robinson said the Massereene attack vindicated his decision, which had been criticised by Sinn Fein.

In 2008, dissident republicans attempted to kill PSNI officers during separate incidents in Derry City and Dungannon, Co Tyrone.

Security forces defused a 300lb (136kg) bomb in Castlewellan, Co Down, close to a barracks in February 2009.

One of the most difficult things to handle is the interplay between attempts to effect a political settlement following an insurgency and the military operations needed to make sure things don’t get going again. The tendency of those in the political track is to keep the talks going because they have a self-interest in the peace process. And that’s fair enough. But splinter groups on the other side get a vote in the outcome too. The British will have to strike back at the immediate perps. And that will have to be managed within the tension between the negotiation track and military necessity.

Although this happened in Northern Ireland, it will be familiar to those who have followed long-running insurgencies everywhere.

Open thread.

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