NIreland plans protests against IRA dissidents

 Police Service of Northern Ireland officers stand next to graffiti supporting the Continuity Irish Republican Army, as they prepare to search houses ...


Police Service of Northern Ireland officers stand next to graffiti supporting the Continuity Irish Republican Army, as they prepare to search houses ...

Labor union leaders called on workers across Northern Ireland to come together for a silent protest Wednesday against Irish Republican Army dissidents responsible for killing three people and wounding four others.
Two British soldiers and a policeman have been killed since the weekend in Northern Ireland's worst dissident IRA violence in a decade. Northern Ireland newspapers and leaders of the four major church denominations _ Roman Catholic, Presbyterian, Anglican and Methodist _ urged the entire community to denounce the killers with one voice.
Workers in at least four Northern Ireland cities began leaving their work places at noon to attend the protests, the largest in front of Belfast City Hall. Representatives of every political party _ and even leaders of Northern Ireland's major paramilitary groups _ were taking part.
"We want the silence to be a silence that thunders around the world," said Patricia McKeown, president of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions, chief organizer of the protests. "We're not prepared to have this society brought back to the depths of despair that we've lived through."
"End this madness," urged a front-page editorial in the Belfast Telegraph alongside photographs of the three slain men: 48-year-old police Constable Stephen Carroll and two soldiers in the British Army's Royal Engineers: Cengiz "Patrick" Azimkar, 21, and Mark Quinsey, 23.
The Continuity IRA shot Carroll through the back of the head Monday night as he sat in a patrol car. Another splinter group, the Real IRA, gunned down the two army engineers, and wounded two other soldiers and two pizza delivery men, Saturday night as Afghanistan-bound troops collected a final meal at their base's entrance.
In Rome, Pope Benedict XVI condemned the attacks, "which _ besides profaning human life _ seriously endanger the political process under way in Northern Ireland and risk extinguishing the so many hopes raised by it in the region and in the entire world.
"I pray to the Lord, so that no one allows themselves to be again won over by the horrendous temptation of violence," the pope said.
The leaders of Northern Ireland's power-sharing government departed Wednesday for the U.S. to seek increased American support for the peace process.
The leaders of the 22-month-old coalition of British Protestants and Irish Catholics have twice canceled the start of their U.S. visit, which was supposed to focus on defending and promoting U.S. business investment in their land of 1.7 million people.
As they left Wednesday, aides to First Minister Peter Robinson and Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness conceded that their trip now was likely to attract much greater U.S. attention _ but for all the wrong reasons, amid worries that Northern Ireland could be sliding back into a conflict long kept at bay by the Good Friday peace accord of 1998.
But the recent killings have already had the effect of bonding Robinson, long a bitter Protestant opponent of the IRA, and McGuinness, a longtime IRA commander, more closely together than ever before. They rarely appeared in public together before Tuesday, when they stood shoulder to shoulder with Northern Ireland police chief Hugh Orde and appealed for citizens shielding the IRA dissidents in their communities to identify them to police.
"In Northern Ireland today we are seeing a degree of unity among the political parties that some people thought they would never see in their lifetimes," British Prime Minister Gordon Brown told lawmakers in the House of Commons.
Within hours of that appeal, police raided homes in a Catholic district of Craigavon, southwest of Belfast, near the spot where Carroll was killed, and arrested a 17-year-old boy and 37-year-old man. They were being questioned Wednesday at the police's main interrogation center in Antrim, the town west of Belfast where Saturday's Real IRA attack took place.
Robinson and McGuinness are scheduled to visit Los Angeles, New York City and Washington, where they conclude their visit with a White House meeting on St. Patrick's Day, March 17, with President Barack Obama.
Associated Press writers Frances D'Emilio in Rome and David Stringer in London contributed to this report.
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Updated : 2021-04-11 18:13 GMT+08:00