I also wish to be associated with the tributes that have been paid to all the members of the security forces — many of whom gave their lives in the duty of service — who stood between us and the objectives of the terrorists. It is absolutely necessary that the Assembly know exactly what we are up against from dissident terrorists. I will refer to some remarks that were made by a dissident, who, following an interview with ‘The Guardian’ on 15 July 2011, indicated:
“mainstream republicans were coming over to organisation’s way of thinking.”
He also claimed that members of the group that placed the bomb underneath the car of Catholic policeman Constable Ronan Kerr in Omagh were relatively recent defectors from the Provisional IRA.
He also said that Constable Ronan Kerr and Constable Stephen Carroll, who was murdered in Lurgan, were murdered by dissident terror groups because they were legitimate targets. Indeed, although he left it out, I dare say that he would apply the same words to the two members of the army who were murdered in Antrim. That is what we are up against.
I want to pay tribute not only to the security forces — the PSNI, the RUC and the army — but to the people of Northern Ireland. They have stood against terrorism not only in recent years, but for generations. They have stood against those who wanted to remove their birthright by extreme violence and attack the very things that are dear to them. Throughout the generations, during the dark days of terrorism, the law-abiding people of Northern Ireland did not bend. Terrorists could not break their will. When murder and mayhem by the Provisional IRA was at its peak, they stood firm against Provo terrorism.
We must pay particular tribute to the business community, which was often terrorism’s target. In the clear-up after every bomb that was placed in their premises, a sign went up saying, “Business as usual”. It did not really matter whether the business belonged to someone from the Protestant, unionist, nationalist or Catholic community; the owners continued on and stood firm against terrorism. In all the difficulties of life that we witnessed during the most recent terrorist campaign, when there was a ring of steel around Belfast, when every village and town in Northern Ireland had its own security arrangements, and when practically every retail shop had to implement security arrangements, the business community stood firm against terrorists.
I welcome the stand that the Assembly has taken. All indications are that the motion will pass. Over recent years and following attacks on the PSNI and the army, the House has stood united to condemn those attacks in the strongest possible terms. Those cowardly attacks on police officers have been condemned by the First Minister and the deputy First Minister. I have to say that many of us were surprised when the deputy First Minister stood side by side with the Chief Constable and the First Minister on the steps of Stormont Castle and condemned the dissidents as traitors. I welcomed his words. Many of us were surprised when he used those words.
An attack on any member of the security forces is not just an attack on him and his family; it is an attack on the entire community and the aspects of life that we all hold dear, such as the democratic process. Of course, we face an increased threat from dissident terrorists. The implementation of the Patten report saw many very experienced officers lose their jobs and move on to other employment. Is it not interesting that they have been headhunted by Governments around the world because of their experience of the infrastructure to combat terrorism?
I support the motion.