Different Sort of Terrorist?; Tony Blair Is Soft on Terrorism and Soft on the Causes of Terrorism, Says Graham Findlay
Findlay, Graham, The Birmingham Post (England)
Human suffering: A British Army soldier on security watch in Omagh representing prevention of terrorism in Northern Ireland, while, above, mourners of an Omagh bomb victim are overcome with emotion during a service of remembrance.
The Prime Minister's desire to bring peace to Northern Ireland has become - as it so often does - a desperate political embarrassment.
Shocked by the Omagh bombing, Mr Blair is now recalling Parliament, itself a rare event, to introduce new anti-terrorist legislation.
This, mark you, from the leader of a Labour Party which spent 18 years in opposition voting against the Prevention of Terrorism Act which they introduced after the Birmingham pub bombings in 1974.
And it comes from a Government which has bent over backwards to accommodate the demands of Sinn Fein/IRA to the extent of including them in the peace process without the surrender of a single weapon.
And from a Government which is committed to releasing from jail dozens of the most dangerous terrorists this country has ever had the misfortune to produce.
Mr Blair's latest plans include the effective re-introduction of internment - it will be possible to jail anyone suspected of belonging to a terrorist organisation simply on the say-so of a single police officer.
He is running hard to keep up with the Irish Republic which, after years of providing aid and succour to terrorists, has responded to the Omagh deaths by bringing in its toughest-ever anti-terrorism laws.
As Mr Blair should know well, the introduction of internment in August 1971 - which came in against the advice of the army - led to the imprisonment of many innocent people and widespread riots in which 23 people died.
They culminated with the stilontroversial Bloody Sunday killings in which 14 Catholics were killed.
The Prime Minister is proposing to bring back something very like that legislation in an attempt, we must assume, to crack down on the "Real IRA".
Yet let us suppose the people who committed the Omagh atrocity were rounded . Let us even suppose some of them were tried and sentenced to life imprisonment.
The "Real IRA" has already apologised for Omagh and said such an atrocity will not happen again. Suppose in due course the "Real IRA" is found a seat at the negotiating table and sends representatives to Stormont.
Where does that leave the people who have been tried and sentenced for the murders?
Will they be allowed to go free? Or will they have to stay in jail? And if they remain imprisoned, how long will they have to serve?
Given the terms of the peace agreement as it exists today, it seems quite reasonable to suppose that someone jailed for the Omagh bombing will be free again within two years.
The agreement makes the release of "political prisoners" - that is, psychopathic killers - a top priority.
The prison service is already talking about what to do with redundant Maze prison staff as more and more republican and loyalist murderers are let out.
The only difference between these men and women and those who killed 28 people in Omagh on Saturday is that they committed their crimes before Good Friday whereas those who have yet to be arrested and tried committed theirs much more recently.
Of course, there is a question of degree. To kill 28 people indiscriminately is bloody murder but is it more bloodily murderous than killing, say, six or seven? …