Belfast Telegraph

Friday 19 September 2014

DebateNI home of Northern Ireland politics

Dissident republicans to join St Patrick's parade in New York: For PSNI it will be like stepping back to 1985

Dissident republicans due to march alongside PSNI officers in St Patrick's Day parade in New York

The Irish Dancing Music Association at a previous  St Patrick's Day parade  in New York
The Irish Dancing Music Association at a previous St Patrick's Day parade in New York
The Irish Dancing Music Association at a previous St Patrick's Day parade in New York

If you are an Irish American and you can see around you that there are a lot more of you over there than there are of us over here, then you might easily think that the moral centre of gravity, of concern for Ireland and its future, is the diaspora, expressing itself today through the New York City St Patrick's Day parade.

But you might pause occasionally to consider what we over here think of you. After all, we are the ones who get to suffer the consequences of all that jingoistic enthusiasm. Isn't little Ireland what it's all about?

This year, for the first time, members of the PSNI are marching in the parade alongside members of An Garda Siochana.

The way things are here, we can just about spare six of them.

For some of them it will be like stepping into a staggering metropolis only to find themselves in the past, where ardent supporters of Irish republican chauvinists will be living out a fantasy that they are back in 1985.

Even then it shouldn't have been cool to be militantly pro-IRA. Even then most people in Ireland would have thought you a waster and an eejit for that.

And many who did cheer for the Provos and put money in their pockets have changed since, as the Provos themselves have, and followed the logic towards relative political stability.

Giving the PSNI a welcome would be, for those Irish Americans, a recognition of change.

Yet there are backers still in Irish America for the most irrelevant and backward political movement in Ireland, the republican purists who still think they can finish the War of Independence.

That there is any support for that thinking at all in the US when there is virtually none in Ireland, and that those pushing it over there think they are doing anything of value for us over here, just makes Irish America look daft. It appears that the diaspora will always be potentially a problem.

There are too many people with money and guns who want to influence events they don't follow closely enough to actually understand.

For them, here is the news: The Irish Republic has endorsed the border. The IRA has accepted that Northern Ireland is British until a majority there says otherwise. And former members of the IRA are on the Policing Board where senior peelers address them by their christian names.

And dissident republicans who wish none of this was so are in with a chance of winning a council seat or two in the coming local government elections.

Oh, and 20 old Provos accepted the mercy of the Queen to spare them completing two-year prison sentences.

Still, there will be diehards in the parade bigging themselves up with the ardour of their insistence that Britain should get out of Ireland, sneering at the PSNI and bemoaning the centuries of oppression and injustice.

That may seem like a rational position to take in a New York bar when the beer is flowing green.

But Ireland is a real place, not a fantasy land, and over here, there is no army to fight that battle, no political movement that will revoke the Good Friday Agreement and very few who wouldn't faint in horror if presented with a united Ireland in the morning.

So stuff that in your green pipe and smoke it.

And show a wee bit of respect for our peelers while you're at it.

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