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Thursday 30 July 2009

Booby Prize

My first work after becoming a freelance was at an organisation that looked after, among other things, buildings and other structures at Government owned sites. These included Army barracks and camps, and RAF bases. Security dictated that anyone visiting the military took precautions: after all, this was before the first IRA ceasefire. One such precaution was to look out for what was called the Under Vehicle Booby Trap, or UVBT.

This straightforward precaution was missed out today by two Guardia Civil officers on the island of Majorca, who were killed when a device was detonated under their vehicle. The bombing was almost certainly the work of ETA, and bears the usual hallmarks: targeting the military or law enforcement agencies, doing it in a tourist area (to harm the wider Spanish economy) and doing it in high season (ditto). The island has been sealed off in the hope that those who planted the bomb are still there. The Beeb has some detail on its website.

The area where the bombing took place – Palma Nova – is on the tourist map, and is literally round the corner from Magaluf (aka Megaruf), the island’s principal lager and Full English consumption point. So there could be lots of Brits who witnessed the explosion, even though they may not have been in a coherent state at the time.

ETA – who celebrate their 50th anniversary tomorrow – clearly still want to press their case for independence for the Basque region. Why they continue their campaign is not clear: neither Spain nor France (the Basque region straddles the border) is likely to yield to them.

I can’t help thinking that, had General Franco not suppressed every language except Castellano, and had not been so keen to impose rule from Madrid (without any concession to regionalism), ETA may never have come into being. There is a parallel with Northern Ireland: when the civil rights protests started in 1968, the IRA was effectively moribund. It took particularly wilful behaviour from politicians and law enforcement agencies to being them back to life.

The UK has since, more or less, dealt with the problems of Northern Ireland. It looks like Spain has some distance to go with the Basque region.

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