Shockwaves from killings rock the peace process

Click to follow
THE British and Irish governments and local political parties yesterday sought to shelter the peace process from the shockwaves generated by Tuesday's night's double killing in Poyntzpass.

Together they produced waves of condemnation which reflected the poignancy of the fact that loyalist extremists, in their efforts to damage the process, had killed Damien Trainor, a Catholic, and Philip Allen, a Protestant, who were close personal friends. Church leaders also joined in the condemning the shootings.

Unionist and nationalist leaders combined in unusual singleness of purpose in expressing their condemnation, with the Ulster Unionist leader, David Trimble, and Seamus Mallon, deputy leader of the Social Democratic and Labour Party, taking the uncommon step of visiting the homes of the bereaved together.

Many took comfort in the fact that the violence for once seemed to lead to a closing of political ranks rather than a sundering of relationships. At the same time, both the political and security worlds are reluctantly coming to terms with the fact that the violent capabilities of those opposed to the process is growing at a disturbing rate.

The two killings are being laid at the door of the Loyalist Volunteer Force, the group founded by the assassinated loyalist Billy Wright. This means the LVF has carried out seven killings since Wright's death in late December, thus proving itself to be a major menace.

On the republican side, meanwhile, breakaway groups have also shown an ability to increase their bombing attempts, providing further worries for all concerned. The Taoiseach, Bertie Ahern, warned that there would be further attacks, adding: "That is the brutal reality of these things."

Tony Blair told the Commons: "We can all use the normal and right but ritualistic language about an evil atrocity and these appalling murders and how senseless and wicked they are - and they are all of those things.

"But I think that these two men who were murdered last night - two friends across the community divide - in a sense symbolised the future in Northern Ireland and those gunmen, in the evil atrocity they committed, they symbolised the past."

His sentiments were echoed by the Catholic Archbishop, Sean Brady, who described them as killings which had not just claimed two young lives but cut to the heart of what the people of Northern Ireland held dear, and which gave them hope.

Mr Trimble said after visiting the families: "I am ashamed to think the perpetrators of this deed were Protestant. They were serving no cause and on behalf of the Unionist community I repudiate them and I repudiate their associates.

"All they are doing is killing off the hope we are trying to engender. But despite, and mainly because of this, we are going to try to continue to do our best to bring some political stability."

Mr Mallon added: "Our presence today, visiting these families together, is a clear indication to the entire community that the people who carried out these murders will not be allowed to drive a wedge between us."

Three men were last night being questioned about the attack. They were detained in the mid-Ulster areas several hours after the shooting.