I wonder how many of you know that something serious happened very recently in Northern Ireland. Not many. I thought that was the case, so let me inform you just briefly.
About two weeks ago, on March 7 and March 9 respectively, members of dissident IRA groups shot two soldiers and killed a police officer. This is so significant because it is the first attack by the IRA in 12 years.
In the past, any attack that was made by either of the communities- the Catholics and the Protestants- was sure to break down the peace process in Northern Ireland.
And when peace was broken, as many of our older relatives remember from the news coverage of the Troubles, it was usually broken with a vengeance, sending a shot of fear throughout Northern Ireland.
But what happened this time was different. Leaders from both communities reacted in outrage.
Even former I.R.A. commander, Martin McGuiness, who is now Northern Ireland’s deputy prime minister, called the killers “traitors to the island of Ireland.” Tony Gallagher, head of education at Queen’s University in Belfast, recently visited Millersville and he confirmed that more than fear, the general outcry was one of anger. If this is not promising news about the future of Northern Ireland, I do not know what is.
And I guess you are all wondering why you should care about this. For one thing, many of us have Irish heritage. We tend to be extremely proud of that, but many of us know so little about what happens in Ireland.
This includes Northern Ireland, as one of the main ports of emigration to places like America was Derry, or Londonderry.
And a second, perhaps more immediate, reason we should care is that currently eight students from Millersville University are attending St. Mary’s University College in West Belfast in County Antrim, where the attacks occurred.
Just imagine if the reactions to these attacks had been different! Perhaps in the future we should all keep a little closer eye on what happens in Northern Ireland. It just might mean something to us.
Around the time of the Good Friday Agreement, which was effectually the end of Troubles, the IRA split into the Provisional IRA and the Real IRA, later splitting into a third party, the Continuity IRA. While the Provisional IRA disarmed and committed itself to the peace process, the other two groups were not content with the compromise. They remained focused on the goal of reuniting Northern Ireland with the Republic, recently choosing to make their goal known with a show of violence.