The events that took place on John Wilson Street cannot be done justice with any words I am capable of conjuring. Its implications will be chewed over by media and government alike long into the future. However, one question in particular is in need of addressing: do the events in Woolwich represent a rebirth of former times where soldiers felt vulnerable on their own streets?
While the grotesque way the serving soldier was murdered will scar the memories of us all, it is, unfortunately, far from an isolated example of such targeted attacks on military personnel within the UK. It is clear that I am referring to the cauldron of unease that servicemen lived in during the period when the cloud of the IRA darkened the UK. This is of personal interest to myself, as my father was one of many servicemen that had to endure the everyday threat posed by the troubles in Ireland.
Woolwich as an area is not unfamiliar with attacks on military personnel: in 1974, two off duty soldiers were killed by a bomb planted by the IRA in a local pub. However, while the capabilities of the IRA and those of Adebowale and Adeboloja differ immeasurably, the way they sought to destabilise the country does not.
It is obvious to anyone that follows the news that the psychological impact on the public mindset achieved by targeting servicemen, is now being realised by extremists as a more effective way of attacking the ‘invaders’ of their lands. We would almost certainly be having the same national outcry, if in 2007 the planned execution a soldier in Birmingham had been successful. Therefore, although the military organisation and tactical bombing of the IRA has ebbed away, the intent to attack soldiers where they are most vulnerable remains.
Various political correspondents are touting a ‘new’ type of threat, whereby single minded terrorists not attached to recognised cells will seek a much publicised victory against their perceived enemies. For such terrorists, it only takes the killing of one serviceman to be successful and although all barracks in London are on high alert this level of protection can surely not be maintained.
it only takes the killing of one serviceman to be successful…
Now that my scaremongering is over it is time to point out that the very real threat that the IRA posed in the past, despite the tragic death of this soldier, is far from being realised in this country. For now, erratic groups of individuals that we saw perpetrate the needless violence on Lee Rigby lack the equipment and clear ideology that the IRA possessed to have any real continuity and widespread effect. Additionally, although I am sure this will upset the opponents of installations like GCHQ and the greater idea of the ‘big brother’, intelligence gathering in this country has improved and it has prevented more attacks than it has overlooked.
Finally, to all the paranoid folk, soldiers are not being told to check for bombs under their cars or to take different routes to work anymore, as was so customary for people like my dad in the days of the IRA. Let us hope that soldiers may wear their uniforms with a pride that they deserve and may they walk the same streets safely that they have risked so much to protect.