One of the first world statesmen to send a message of sympathy to Boston after last week’s outrage was Gerry Adams, president of Sinn Fein. ‘Just watching news of the explosion in Boston,’ he tweeted, ‘Sympathy with people of that fine city.’ Mr Adams has every reason to think fondly of Boston. Throughout the troubles, while he sat on the IRA war council, Boston was one of the major American centres which he (through Noraid) could rely on for support and funding. Bostonian money would have been used to help pay for the IRA attack on Margaret Thatcher’s democratically elected government in Brighton, the grotesque Birmingham pub bombings that left 21 dead, and of course the Lisburn van bombing of 15 June 1988. On that terrible occasion six off-duty British soldiers were killed by an IRA bomb just after they had completed a half-marathon for charity.
By no means all Bostonians supported the IRA. But far too many for comfort filled in the collecting tins that went round the bars of the south part of the city, where IRA terrorists were treated as heroes. This activity was smiled on by many local politicians, and overlooked for a time even by the FBI. Of course one’s heart goes out to the dead and wounded from last week’s hideous attack, and the sympathy here in Britain has been universal. But it is not easy to draw the distinction between the horror inflicted on Boston last week and the IRA (and loyalist) atrocities of the Troubles. Yet US sympathisers are funding the ‘Real IRA’ even today. In the light of last week’s horror, would it be too much to ask them to desist?