6 January 1996
Killings in Ireland: is the peace process dead?
Since last April, seven men involved in drug dealing and petty crime have
been shot by an IRA front organisation, Direct Action Against Drugs. RUC
sources have suggested that the killings are part of an IRA campaign 'to
stake out its turf'. Others have argued that the killings are part of a
strategy to appease 'hardliners' within the organisation. The reality is
that the killings are part of a desperate effort to stem the collapse of
morale and order within the nationalist community of Northern Ireland, writes
Since the onset of the peace process, and especially since the IRA ceasefire
of August 1994, petty crime has escalated within the nationalist community.
It is the proliferation of this sort of crime that the IRA is trying to
deal with rather than the activities of large drug dealers.
Drug taking is still very low in Northern Ireland generally. It is noticeable
that most of those shot by the IRA are little more than petty thieves trying
to sustain their own drug habits. Alongside the shootings there has been
a massive increase in beatings, once again in an attempt to curtail the
breakdown in order.
The collapse of morale within the nationalist community is a direct result
of the peace process initiated by Sinn Fein and the IRA. Strongly republican
areas such as West Belfast were always noted for their low level of crime.
This was not, as some have suggested, because of the IRA intimidated potential
law breakers. If that was the case then the IRA's present campaign would
be a resounding success.
The scarcity of anti-social activity was due to the fact that the struggle
against British rule gave people a common sense of purpose and helped obviate
the sense of decay that would otherwise have pressed so heavily in such
poverty-stricken areas. Now that the struggle is over, the bonds of solidarity
have been broken and each individual is forced to find their own ways to
getting by. In areas with up to 70 per cent unemployment, it is little surprise
that some will resort to drugs and crime. Punishment beatings and shootings
only give those opposed to the nationalist community more ammunition to
use against them, and can never be a substitute for a popular cause.
Mark Ryan is author of War and Peace in Ireland.
- On Thursday 11 January Mark will speak on the killings in Ireland,
at 7.30 pm at Friends Meeting House, Euston Road, London, NW1. The nearest
tube is Euston and the price of admission is £4 waged, £2 unwaged,
£1 FE and school students.
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