IRA's armed propaganda Failed London bombs: Terrorism designed to derail Northern Ireland peace process.

April 26, 1996

THE TWO BOMBS that failed to blow up the busy Hammersmith Bridge in London show the Irish Republican Army is planning to escalate its violence in an attempt to derail the Northern Ireland peace process, which is entering a critical stage in a few weeks.

Under a timetable agreed by British Prime Minister John Major and Irish Prime Minister John Bruton, Ulster voters will select on May 30 the 110 members of a forum from which negotiators will be drawn for a constitutional convention scheduled to begin June 10. The Irish Republican Army, which ended its 17-month cease-fire in February, clearly fears that these negotiations would undermine the significance of its political wing, Sinn Fein. The British have said Sinn Fein will be excluded from the process unless it halts its terror campaign.

The Hammersmith Bridge bombs were apparently planted to commemorate the 80th anniversary of the 1916 Easter Uprising against British forces in Dublin, one of the most hallowed events in the history of Irish rebellion. This is a time when emotions run high on both sides. In Northern Ireland, a total of 3,000 parades -- mostly organized by Protestants to underscore their desire for supremacy -- will be held between now and the summer. Any one of these is a potential flashpoint. IRA knows this.

Sinn Fein is playing a high-stakes gamble.

On one hand its strategists argue that there is "no prospect whatsoever" of a new IRA cease-fire unless Republicans were convinced there were going to be real peace negotiations. On the other hand, as the momentum builds for far-reaching negotiations between Protestants and minority pro-Irish Catholics builds, Sinn Fein is in danger of being excluded from the process. This explains its desperation and dedication to acts of armed propaganda.

The failed Hammersmith Bridge bombs are believed to have been the most powerful IRA has ever planted. This suggests the clandestine army will use whatever it takes in its attempt to derail the peace process.

Pub Date: 4/26/96

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