Leading article

Violent groups must be decisively rejected

All the indications last night were that the bomb discovered on a residential street in north Belfast had fallen to the ground after being earlier planted underneath a car.

A dissident republican group issued a statement claiming that it had repeatedly targeted an off-duty British soldier who regularly visited the area for personal reasons.

What was absolutely clear was the booby trap, if it had exploded, would probably have killed all the occupants of the vehicle as well as endangering anyone else who happened to be in the vicinity.

There were also reliable reports that a young boy had a very narrow escape after spotting the device lying on the road on Thursday and innocently kicking it as he walked past.

It was appalling that the individuals behind the attack was prepared to risk causing the deaths of ordinary citizens of all ages who happened to be in and around Linden Gardens in the Cliftonville Road district of the city.

However, it also needs to be stressed that there could be no possible justification in the first place for attacking a soldier either now or at any other stage of our history.

Hundreds of soldiers and police officers and thousands of civilians were murdered by various groups over the last four decades and beyond, but no cause was advanced all the bloodshed.

All that was achieved, apart from human misery on a shocking scale, was a sense of bitterness and hatred which poisoned our divided society for generations

It was only when the evil violence began to subside that real progress, through the constitutional structures associated with the Good Friday Agreement, eventually emerged.

We still have some distance to travel but the activities of those who would attempt to bring us back to the darkest days of the past must be rejected firmly.

It will be noted that another serious incident took place on Thursday night in the Currynierin area of Derry when gunshots were fired through the window of a house occupied by a couple and their young daughter.

We could easily have been preparing for a series of funerals in the coming days if events had taken a different turn in both of our main cities.

If violent organisations do not accept the democratic will of the electorate and withdraw from the stage permanently, they will have to be brought to justice through the courts.

Anyone who can help the authorities with their investigations has a responsibility to provide the information which will help to safeguard the entire community.

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