Belfast Telegraph

Tuesday 22 July 2014

DebateNI home of Northern Ireland politics

'Dissident republican gun attacks on police in Belfast show reckless and dangerous nature of campaign'

The scene in north Belfast after a gun attack on police officers last Thursday evening
The scene in north Belfast after a gun attack on police officers last Thursday evening

Last weekend's gun attacks on police by dissident republicans illustrate the increasingly reckless and dangerous nature of their campaign.

These attacks and others like the attempted proxy bombs in Derry tell me that the so-called ‘dissidents’ are becoming more desperate and frustrated at their lack of ‘success’.

But does there come a moment in time when even the most illogical of minds can draw a logical conclusion? Let us hope so.

With every passing day the sheer senselessness of the dissident republican campaign in the north becomes ever more apparent. Even to refer to it as a ‘campaign’ stretches the limits of accurate vocabulary.

This is not to underestimate the fact that these disparate groups possess deadly capacity and deadly intentions. Their previous murder and maiming of individuals has shown the terrible consequence of their continued existence.

In cold military terms however, they have shown themselves to be a fairly ragged rump.

A combination of effective policing and co-operation between the Gardai and the PSNI have thwarted their activities, resulting in several charges and arrests. In their depths though, the leaders of dissident republicanism must also recognise another reality. Not only, it seems, do the dogs on the street know every movement of these dissidents but that these same dogs are freely talking to the police.

The continuation of their ‘campaign’ is certain to achieve only one thing. Those easily led will face long years in prison. More likely than not, the vast majority of them will be young men. It is a waste which has too often been repeated throughout Irish history.

Those who walk in a world vulnerable to the dissidents’ malign influence should be clear as to the will of the Irish people. The nationalist and republican peoples of Ireland have repeatedly rejected dissident republicanism’s archaic ideas, their cause and their activities. Ireland is a country which has known violence and known its futility. The road to a New Ireland is impeded by those who would use the tactic of violence. Dissident republicans should not fool themselves into the belief that their fight is with the British Government. It is the Irish people with whom they must contend.

I am acutely aware that these words and this analysis have been articulated before. Despite the undoubted necessity to continually vocalise this mantra, its predictability can sometimes act to reduce the potency of its message.

Perhaps, therefore, dissidents may more readily abide by the advice and example of a previous generation of republican militants. The IRA border campaign of the late 1950s was called to a halt because, by their own admission, it had failed to gain any support or sympathy amongst the nationalist peoples of the north. Even within the tradition that desperately clung on to the fundamentalist view of political violence, the full force of failure was belatedly accepted.

The IRA press release of February 1962 read: "All arms and other material have been dumped and all full-time active service volunteers have been withdrawn".

It was an acknowledgement of reality and logic.

The unalienable truth of that moment is no less dimmed today. It is time that dissident republicanism drew the same logical conclusion.

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