The death of Ronan Kerr is troubling, obviously, and one wonders just what kind of reaction we should expect.
Terrorism is something that we will never be able to fully eradicate, anymore then you could ever fully eradicate fundamentalist teachings or arms dealing. I recall the controversial belief, held by some, that terrorism cannot be defeated, but only relegated to the level of a nuisance. That is, something that still occurs, but is limited to the smallest scale possible by the correct application of law enforcement and military action (when absolutely necessary).
This murder strikes me as an extension of that concept. Northern Ireland is, despite this horrific attack, at its most peaceful ebb in its entire existence. It has been for a decade, with some very tragic exceptions. Those exceptions are the “nuisance”.
One wonders just what the point of this attack was. It was, perhaps, political, which would probably lead back to a republican group. It might have been an intimidation exercise, in which case it could have been anybody. It’s possible there was no political motivation behind it whatsoever. Either way, it won’t have the desired effect. Attacks of this nature tend to harden opinion against violence, or at least that is what I have noticed happening on this island. Twenty years ago, a Protestant would already have died in a reprisal killing by now. Today, that hasn’t happened, and I hope and believe that it will not.
The correct response is one led by local law enforcement, and no one else. No military help is required or desired. This should be treated exactly as it is: a murder, one that we will not dignify with a political aspect, to be investigated and handled by the Northern Ireland Police Force.
I hope that the north has gotten to a stage in its history when this sort of attack is not seen as a strike against the Protestant or Catholic community, but an assault on law and order: that is, the victims religious affiliation is utterly meaningless, other than as a possible indication of who the culprits are. It is good for Northern Ireland to get to that stage, where both communities can unite in grief and condemnation. Such unity is the best defence against further acts of aggression and terrorism. The extremist groups still active on either side of the supposed divide in the north are already strangled of support and resources. Refusing to play their game, to act on their attempted re-igniting of sectarian feelings, doing anything other than mourn the loss of this young officer, someone whose job was to simply “protect and serve”, regardless of race, gender, creed or religion, is not only the morally right course of action, but the way to victory, a victory over extremism, hate, sectarianism and those who cannot accept that they have no place on this island.
We should not grant these people the power they so desire, the power to instil fear or panic. We, north and south, have always been more powerful. All we have to do is refuse to allow escalation, or for this act of murder to affect our lives one iota, and we have already won.