One tends to get a bit complacent
about how much things have changed for the better in Norn Iron until pulled up by a jolt. The old 'Troubles' of only little more than 10 to 15 years ago seem very remote-the hours for instance I sat in a car in Newcastle main street as others did the shopping as unattended cars were not permitted for fear of car bombs; peering under my car before driving off in case some unfriendly person had taken exception to my official employment with HMG; the frequent road blocks manned by British soldiers; the armed military patrols creeping up suburban streets with soldiers in full battle gear scanning the roof tops for snipers; the heavily fortified pill boxes on the way to the Border and on the approaches to Belfast International airport, traffic slowed by elaborate chicanes and viscous spikes which when activated would rip your tyres to shreds. Police stations smothered in barbed wire, anti-mortar bomb devices on their roofs and guard posts with one way glass and protruding barrels of heavy machine guns.
But suddenly when all that seemed to have changed for ever and the sectarian venom relegated to the letter columns of the Mourne Observer, the army invisible, the barbed war replaced by Chinese Granite, at a vehicle check point outside the sleepy little town of Ballynahinch hallway between Newcastle and Belfast, police open fire on a vehicle killing the driver. Bang, crack, dead on Easter Sunday amidst a pile of vehicles heading to the coast full of Sunday supplements to be read in a cramped parking space with no view of the sea. And the other occupants of the offending BMW under arrest, supplements and all, presumably.
Why? Well nothing has changed here in one respect. No details beyond the briefest statement that the matter is being investigated by the Ombudsman. Were arms found?Did the car ignore orders to stop? Acting on 'information received' ? Watch this space; if you have the patience.