On Saturday night two soldiers were shot dead and four others wounded during an attack outside an army Barracks in Masserene, Co. Antrim. My deepest condolences go out to those people and their families.
The Real IRA has claimed responsibility for the attack through a statement issued to the Dublin based Sunday Tribune newspaper.
The attacks took place just one day after it was announced that the Special Reconnaissance Regiment (SRR), part of UK Intelligence Services, were to be deployed to the North to counter the recent and considerable increase in dissident Republican activity.
There had been considerable political fall-out off the back of this announcement with both the SDLP and Sinn Fein claiming that the Policing Board had been undermined and should have been informed prior to the decision.
Republicans and nationalists were only informed about this issue through media sources after Friday’s meeting of the Policing Board.
This action was counterproductive and only served to undermine the authority of the Policing Board and cause affront to hard fought democratic and accountability mechanisms.
Regardless, this attack has laid bare the severity of the current situation. Dissidents have proven beyond doubt that they still have the capability and determination to carry out attacks against the security services and against the democratic will of the people of Ireland.
Dissident republicans must realise that they are not the chosen few. They have no mandate or popular support for their campaigns- their actions are not legitimate. They have no political direction and do not have any clear strategy, or any strategy, to create a united Ireland.
History has shown that violence can not and does not work. Violence only serves to beget violence. These actions will only serve to further put off the prospect of a united Ireland and buttress unionist opposition to it.
Ordinary people want to get on with their lives, get a decent job, a decent and normal life. They do not want this. The overwhelming majority on the people of this island, North and South, voted for the Good Friday Agreement. They do not want this.
The signing of the GFA was a clear message that rejected the use of violence and committed popular support to the principle of consent. The consent principle is the only tool now to further nationalist and republican goals.
Former SDLP leader and Nobel Peace Laureate John Hume once said ''it is people who have rights, not territory, not land. Our people, unfortunately, are divided and cannot be brought together by and form of coercion, only through understanding, reconciliation and agreement''.
I sincerely hope that in this dark time, with all the progress that has been achieved perched upon a precipice, we must reflect on these words and our own experiences and reach the conclusion that peace is the only way forward.
We must all come together in opposition and in solidarity against these attacks and reaffirm our collective commitment to the paths of peace and democracy in the North of Ireland. We have come along way over the years and we must not and will not give up on building a Shared Future together.
I appeal to those responsible to please cease this activity. Ask yourselves deep down do you really want to go down this violent road again?