That attack shows that frequency is not the only important metric, Horgan tells Security Management. The level of sophistication of those attacks and their impact also matters.
The question now is what to do about the threat to peace. Horgan says that mainstream Republican groups have a primary role to play in stopping Republican and Nationalist youth from joining in the new wave of attacks.
That won’t be easy, given the history. “We have young children, teenagers for example, lamenting the fact that they weren’t able to get involved in the conflict, lamenting the fact that they didn’t spend time in prison with this romantic Republican culture,” says Horgan. “There is a paramilitary culture which the dissident groups are trying to use to groom young kids into becoming involved.”
Nongovernmental organizations and activists, however, are not sitting idly by. Michael Culbert, who spent 16 years in prison for killing a police officer during The Troubles and who is now director of Coiste, a network of Republican ex-prisoners, says his organization is trying to fight the dissidents. They are constantly engaged with schools and youth groups to ensure that children and teenagers from Republican communities stay on the path of nonviolence and peaceful politics. He and his colleagues use their status as fighters to persuade youth that the time for armed struggle has passed.
Culbert’s group tells kids that there are other ways to get involved. One of the things Culbert advises Republican youth to do is join the PSNI, something unthinkable decades ago. He explains to them that he wants idealistic and “critically aware” young people to join organizations like the police service so that they can begin to “change society from within those types of structures."
The International Fund for Ireland (IFI) is another organization dedicated to ensuring that fringe groups, whether Nationalist or Unionist, do not harm the peace. “Our major concern is the influence these [paramilitary] groups can exert over young people and their ability to potentially destabilize the peace process,” Chairman Dr. Denis Rooney says.