Whilst media outlets might denounce Sinn Fein for their failure to produce a sufficiently resounding condemnation of the recent killings, it is worth bearing in mind that if even pizza delivery men are considered to be collaborators and therefore legitimate targets, there is a fairly clear implied message there for Sinn Fein, which determines the content of their response.
My first take on the people who shot the soldiers and then the police officer was that they are crazed fundamentalists. For them, the fact of any British rule in Ireland is enough to legitimate their murderous activities. But thinking about it a bit further, I think that behind the apparent ideological purity of their position lie the motivating factors of betrayal and power usurped.
Let me place that judgement on hold for a minute and consider their actions in terms of the most rational argument that might be advanced from within their ranks. I do so mindful of the fact that the term ‘dissident’ connotes some sort of ability for rational analysis, but also of the fact that these people have no shortage of brutish simpletons among their ranks, and that it may be these people who hold the greatest influence.
The attacks on soldiers and the police would have twofold objectives. One, to draw a draconian response from the British state security apparatus sufficient to reveal, once again, the reality that Northern Ireland is an entity maintained by the threat of massive state violence. Two, to engineer a schism within the Republican movement that would lay bare Sinn Fein collaboration with occupying forces, thereby rallying greater grassroots support for the cause of kicking the Brits out once the traitors can be seen for what they are. Yet it must, at some point, become apparent to those among them with a propensity to think, that the methods they have employed are scarcely different to those used by the Provisional IRA less than twenty years ago, and if they think that the British presence in Ireland has been strengthened by the Good Friday Agreement and the subsequent formation of institutions, then it must occur to them, at some point, that the only thing they could ever stand to achieve is some sort of similar agreement, twenty years hence, only with them, instead of SF, occupying the position of power, atop a pile of thousands more corpses. That would be the best case scenario for them, which is why I think this has to do with achieving power for the sake of it, rather than being motivated by some sort of concern for empowering the people in whose name they claim to act.
That is the best argument I could make on their behalf. But maybe any long term strategy they might speak of is simply an alibi, and in the end, all they are in it for is the killing and the rush of power that flows from discharging a gun. Maybe they are just Irish republicanism’s excremental remainder.