Peter Hoskin

Will the loyalists prevent an escalation?

Will the loyalists prevent an escalation?
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In today's Independent, David McKittrick highlights one of the most important questions surrounding the recent killings in Northern Ireland: Will loyalists seek bloody revenge?  It's encouraging that the leader of the largest loyalist paramilitary group, the Ulster Defence Association, answers in the negative in the Times.  Here's what Jackie McDonald tells the paper, in of the most resonant quotes of the past few days:

“There is no danger of retaliation. I have to send my deepest sympathies to the families of the soldiers and the policeman. People came to me saying, ‘Please don’t go back to this, don’t let us go back’.”

Coupled with yesterday's emotional peace rallies, this kind of contribution at least suggests an environment where violence will not be met with violence, and where the brutal murders of the past week will not provoke a grim escalation. 

Of course, this doesn't mean we should be unconcerned about the safety of our soldiers and of Nothern Irish policemen - especially given the inadequacy of some of the intelligence and security procedures over there - and nor should we be unprepared for more killings perpetrated by unhinged groups and individuals.  But it does mean that a return to the worst of the Troubles looks unlikely.  And for that we should be grateful.