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The event that took place on the Crumlin Road in north Belfast last night was an appalling attempt to murder a police officer or police officers. It is a chilling and terrible reminder of those dark days — some of the darkest days — when such attacks were a regular occurrence in Belfast. It is a reminder of the method that was used and the murderous intent of those who carried out the attack. It is wrong to murder police officers; it is wrong to murder anyone. It was wrong when it was the old IRA doing it years ago, it was wrong when it was the Provisional IRA doing it more recently, and it is wrong today, whatever version of the IRA may be doing it.
Our hope and prayer today should be for the recovery of the wounded officer, and our thoughts are with him and his family. Such an attack on a garage forecourt, where people are milling around — young people, elderly folk, people out and about their business, as well as the intended target — means that anyone could have been cut down and killed on the spot last night. It is reminiscent of the 1970s and 1980s in Belfast. Sadly, there are those around today who want to drag us back to a violent past. In recent months, we have seen an upsurge in violent activity by extreme republican elements. We have seen bomb devices being used and shootings, particularly in west Belfast and other parts of Northern Ireland. It is clear that there has been an increased level of activity on top of the ongoing attacks against police officers and prison officers. Fortunately, on this occasion, the intended target was not killed. Fortunately, on the previous occasion of an attack on the Crumlin Road not so long ago, the intended victims were not killed. It is a stark reminder of the responsibility of all of us to make sure that those who are responsible for such attacks are brought before the courts.