Those were dark days with shootings and bombings night after night, especially in North Belfast, and the murders attracted only limited media attention. The next day there were more deaths and those of the previous day were pushed off the pages of the newspapers.
On 9 December 2009 another Roman Catholic police officer, Stephen Carroll, was shot dead by dissident republicans from the Continuity IRA while responding to a 999 call in Craigavon. This came just two days after the shooting of two soldiers by the Real IRA in Antrim and Stephen Carroll was the first PSNI officer to be murdered by terrorists. After those three murders Martin McGuinness described the dissident republican killers as 'traitors to the island of Ireland.' On the Nolan Show on Radio Ulster, Sinn Fein spokesman John O'Dowd, who is now acting DFM, was asked if this was murder and he said clearly and unequivocally that it was murder.
The killing of Dermot Hurley and Thomas Moore by the Provisional IRA in 1971 was also murder and it was totally wrong as were the murders of some 300 other policemen. During the Troubles 301 active members of the RUC were killed and around 9,000 injured, mostly in terrorist attacks by the Provisional IRA. Indeed at one stage the RUC was the most dangerous police service to in the world of which to be a member. The Newry mortar attack by the Provisional IRA in 1985 killed nine RUC officers and this was the highest number of deaths inflicted on the RUC in one incident.
The Roman Catholic Church and the GAA also condemned the murder of Ronan Kerr and they have encouraged young men to join the PSNI. That too must be recognised and welcomed. Indeed that message is coming from people right across the community.
However it raises two questions for Sinn Fein.
1. Was it murder when the Provisional IRA shot Dermot Hurley and was it murder when the IRA killed all those other policemen? Republicans continue to look back to the past and demand the truth about the past. so we have every right to ask them, 'Were those deaths not murders too?'
2. What can Sinn Fein do to help the situation now? They have encouraged people in the nationalist community to provide information about recent attacks to the PSNI and again we welcome that. But is there something more that they could do and the answer is yes.
There is still a lingering ambivalence in such things as Michelle Gildernew's character reference for Gerry McGeough, who was found guilt of the attempted murder of an off-duty UDR man thirty years ago, and the photographs of replica weapons in the hands of children at the Ti Chulainn centre.
Sinn Fein have come so far but there is still some way to go.