These exchanges from the Facebook social network site and concluding comments show my thoughts, as someone who used to be a romantic Irish nationalist in youth and comes from a nationalist background.

Facebook exchanges, March 2009 (slightly revised for publication).

Kiron Reid is having a great time in Belfast with Nick & stuff the terrorists – don't they realise it's 2009

Facebook status: I was in Belfast with my friend Nick at the time of the murders of British soldiers in Antrim. Regardless I have never since the 1980s let violence put me off visiting any place in Ireland.

[Kiron Reid] Peter Robinson: the killings are "a futile act and a terrible waste. The events of Saturday evening were a throwback to a previous era. We must never return to such terrible days."

Martin McGuinness: "These people are traitors to the island of Ireland, they have betrayed the political desires, hopes and aspirations of all of the people who live on this island." (BBC News online 10 March 2009).

These could have been the words of Michael Collins, De Valera or Sean McBride. & they're true.

BBC NEWS | Northern Ireland | McGuinness: "These people are traitors"


Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness has said those who are carrying out attacks in Northern Ireland are "traitors to the island of Ireland".

You posted a link to a news story 11 March at 12:22.

James Edmund King and Gerry Lynch like this.

Jeremy Sanders at 14:23 on 11 March

The problem is, that's exactly what they would think about Martin McGuinness.

Kiron Reid at 17:53 on 11 March

Yes I realise they think Collins sold out; Dev sold out; McBridge abandoned the armed struggle. It took me a long time to realise that Collins was a genuine star Irish hero. [They don't realise that or that he was a master strategist]; [they don't realise] that Dev led Ireland into a backwater but did create a genuine independent state, and [they ignore that] McBridge is in the great tradition of those who see peace can be a legitimate strategy along with Parnell and Thomas Davis. The young idiots or old hot heads don't actually know their Irish history in my experience. They wouldn't know Wolfe Tone if he came up to them in the street.

James Edmund King at 18:45 on 11 March

As it happens, I was reading the Independent leader when I saw this. Says Maurice Hayes, formerly Irish senator and Northern Ireland Ombudsman:

"They physical-force strain in Irish republicanism is essentially anarchist and nihilist – anti-political rather than non-political. In their reading of modern Irish history, every time the armed struggle was on the point of success, the cause was betrayed by apostasy in the leadership. Their crime was to take the political route, and they will identify the villains serially as Michael Collins, Eamon de Valera, Sean MacBride, Cathal Goulding, and it is clear that those who murdered in Antrim and Lurgan are prepared to add the names of Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness to the list."

I thinks that pretty much sums their motivation, sadly.

Kiron Reid at 20:11 on 13 March

A topical and powerful quote, James. I don't agree with Maurice Hayes that the physical force tradition is [necessarily] anarchist or anti-political. However as he says they always believe current leaders have betrayed the cause and they are following a [noble] tradition. In this case it fails to recognise progress. Arguably there was no real democracy in British Ireland in the 1920s or in NI until the '70s, but as my cousins said in the '90s the discrimination had largely ended and no one need die now to express a political opinion. These guys think they can take everyone else in Ireland with them. Arrogant deluded f***s. PS Hayes did great work proposing the NI police ombudsman, embarrassingly I didn't realise that when I met him at the Uni [Institute of Irish Studies] recently.

James Edmund King at 22:07 on 13 March

You've obviously looked far deeper into the background to the Troubles than I have. I am (thank God) just in that 'Good Friday Agreement' generation, so I can't remember any of the atrocities carried out by the Provisional IRA (although I can just about remember Omagh).

Kiron Reid at 22:09 on 14 May, & 15 May

As I've discussed with people soon after and agreed recently I still hope that Omagh will be seen as the end of the Troubles and the atrocity that ended the violence and brought progress. I was in Omagh the weekend after the bomb and saw the devastation; I spoke about it at party conference that year.

The kids who are killing now want to think they're hard [killing young squaddies and shooting pizza delivery Poles] and hard done by, that they're victimised. Yet it is the puppetmasters behind them who have tried so hard to dent the great progress in the north of Ireland socially and economically of the last fifteen years. This in concert with the most bigoted Unionists and complacent sections of the public. I said to my friend Grahame on 12 March that I don't know how you isolate the nutters but unity is a start.

This is the unity being shown across Republicanism, Unionism and Loyalism and Nationalism (as well as by the Unions and civil society and non-sectarian Alliance) across Northern Ireland. Exemplified by the quotes from McGuinness and Robinson. People I have despised as McGuinness drank his coffee in a cafe in Derry in 1986 or as Robinson encouraged the burning barricades around Drumcree a decade later. Their sense of purpose in taking their people forward now could just lead to a glorious future for Ireland that their traditions dream of and so many have lived and worked as well as died for.