Okay, I will admit that I had never even heard of the Continuity IRA until yesterday. (So many forms of the IRA: the IRA, the PIRA, the RIRA, the OIRA, the anti-treaty IRA ...) One of the things I have noticed while reading these reports on the events in Northern Ireland -- besides how unified the peoples of Northern Ireland seem to be at the moment against violence -- is the way in which these splinter groups are dangerous because of the way they attract young men looking for a purpose. While some revolutionary movements have broad appeal and legitimacy, many of the world's militant groups we see are mostly collections of young men looking for meaning to their lives. In this way, of course, terrorist groups are a lot like the United State Marine Corps. But whereas the latter applies disciplined violence in the service of both the status quo and a democratic process, the former apply more or less indisciplined violence against the status quo and often with few checks or controls over behavior. I realize this is one of the more obvious observations this blog has ever made. But as I read these stories out of Northern Ireland, I find myself wondering whether or not the key issue in combating terror is combating the "disaffected young men" problem. I suspect this problem will get worse, not better, with unemployment rising throughout the developed world.
By the way, Edward Gorman has it right.
Easily the most eerie aspect of the last couple of days for me has been the sound on my car radio of Martin McGuinness, allegedly once a senior IRA commander, sounding just like a Northern Ireland Secretary of State from the Eighties.
I think this is because McGuinness knows these attacks are as much a challenge to Sinn Féin as they are to British rule.