NOT surprisingly, last week’s The View (BBC ONE) focused on that attack aimed at John Caldwell of the PSNI in Omagh. As we all know, Caldwell was shot several times as he was ending a soccer-training session and in the presence of his young son.
Among the guests on The View was former PSNI Assistant Chief Constable Peter Sheridan. He came across as a decent man with limited insight. The attack on Caldwell, he suggested, was “killing for killing’s sake”. Mark Carruthers asked if the attack would damp down PSNI recruitment, with all PSNI officers now viewed as legitimate targets. Sheridan compared reaction to the attack with reaction to the invasion of Ukraine: far from intimidating those attacked, the assault could have increased a sense of cohesion and stiffened resolve in the PSNI.
BBC NI’s home affairs correspondent, Julian O’Neill, suggested that Caldwell could have been shot because he was investigating the New IRA. How big is the New IRA? O’Neill was uncertain but said that some estimated one hundred active members with a support base of five hundred.
Having earlier suggested that the attack aimed to deter recruitment to the PSNI, Sheridan again suggested that these people were killing for killing’s sake and that they were building their new Ireland on shooting other Irishmen. Nobody seemed prepared to mention that it was their political alignment rather than their nationality which made the RIC in the 1920s and the RUC in the more recent Troubles an IRA target.
Easily the most interesting contribution from the panel was that of Dr Marisa McGlinchey, who is an associate professor at Coventry University and author of a book titled Unfinished Business: The Politics of ‘dissident’ Irish Republicanism. McGlinchey avoided Sheridan’s killing-for-killing’s-sake line. She claimed these dissidents were motivated by a determination to ‘keep the flame alive’ – a phrase she repeated several times. They didn’t aim at a sustained campaign of violence, but wanted to send a message that they could strike at any time. It was also noted that the political group called Saoradh, commonly linked with the New IRA, had drawn large crowds to rallies in Derry and Dublin.
You don’t have to agree with New IRA views to wish they were explained by the media. Saying they’re doing it because of a crazed blood-lust isn’t at all helpful. Marisa McGlinchey appeared to be the only one providing an informed explanation.