LM Comment
  7:07 pm GMT
Current Archive Subscribe
Comment LM Search Archives Subject index Links Overview FAQ Toolbar
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 Mark Ryan.

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.

Join a discussion on this commentary



Mail: webmaster@mail.informinc.co.uk