Murderous dissenters no part of democracy, says Justice Minister

The murder of Ronan Kerr was killing for killing’s sake, Alan Shatter told the Dail, in a speech that was moving but pulled no punches. 

Ronan Kerr was a young Catholic man whose only wish was to serve his community – that he chose to do so by joining the Police Service of Northern Ireland is a sign of how far the people of Northern Ireland have embraced hope. That he now lies dead is a sign of the despair into which these criminal terrorists wish to drag us.

As of yet there has been no claim of responsibility for this attack. So-called “dissident republicans” have been blamed.

I say “so-called” because these groups debase both words. Historically, the term “dissident” was a badge of honour for those who opposed tyranny. But what these people are dissenting from is democracy itself. Their campaign of violence is designed to set at nothing the will of the Irish people.

Respect for democracy is fundamental to true republicanism. The perpetrators of this attack need to ask themselves who exactly do they represent? At what point did their confused, totalitarian form of supposed republicanism become so perverted, so dogmatic, that its total rejection by their fellow countrymen and women became irrelevant?

In reality, the people who make up these groups are no more than criminal terrorists, whose activities are often inextricably linked with organised crime.

And while it is right that we express our condemnation as strongly as we can, the unpalatable fact is that the people involved in these acts have so far proved impervious to the appeals of people from all backgrounds to stop the violence.

The Garda Síochána are constantly engaged in an intensive anti- and counter-terrorist effort against these organisations. And it is of course the case that the range of measures made available to the Gardaí to counter terrorist activity, including for example the powers available under the original Offences Against the State legislation, including the use of the Special Criminal Court, have been retained. I will be asking the Dáil soon to renew the provisions of the legislation enacted after the earlier atrocity in Omagh in 1998.

Let me put it as plainly as I can: we will stop at nothing, within the rule of law, to defeat these groups.

To put it simply, on one side of the equation lies democracy, the Good Friday Agreement and the clearly-expressed desire for peace of the vast majority of the people of Ireland and of every political party represented in the Oireachtas and at Stormont; on the other side lies a small number of unreconstructed criminal terrorists who appear to believe that robbery and kidnapping are legitimate steps on the road to Irish unity.

Any fool can see that attacks such as the one that robbed Ronan Kerr, an Irish policeman, of his life cannot advance the cause of Irish unity. The murder of Constable Kerr was not just abhorrent but senseless. It fulfils no greater purpose, it advances no political aim. Let us be clear about it – this is killing for killing’s sake.

The people who carried out this barbaric attack have no coherent political position, no points of principle that any decent person could recognise. All they seem to believe in is the death of fellow Irishmen and women. That they claim to carry out these attacks in the name of the Irish people, the same people who have roundly and categorically rejected them, is quite frankly sickening.

 The idea that the so-called dissidents are dissenting from is called democracy.

There could be no greater contrast between the cowardly futility which these groups display and the brave words of Ronan Kerr’s mother when, at a time of unbearable grief, she concentrated on doing good for the community, just as her son tried to do. If anyone who was involved in this killing had any remaining ounce of humanity they would have hung their heads in shame when they heard Nuala Kerr’s words.

 She said “We were so proud of Ronan and all that he stood for”.

 So are we.

 She said “Don’t let his death be in vain”.

 It will not.

 It has made us all the stronger in our determination that the evil behind it will not prevail.

Alan Shatter is the Minister for Justice, Equality and Defence. This is an edited version of his remarks to the Dáil on Tuesday. The full text is a