Belfast Telegraph

They haven’t gone away just for a cosy chat, you know

By Gail Walker

As the republican dissident threat grows, more or less unabated, news that Sinn Fein’s Gerry Kelly is trying to organise a chat with the 32 County Sovereignty Committee will be of little cheer to democrats generally.

Yeah, maybe Sinn Fein — through fine rhetoric, PowerPoint presentations and flip charts — will persuade the straying members of ‘the wider republican family' of the errors of their ways.

Or maybe he just wants to tell them to catch themselves on. But regardless of the thrust of the proposed talks, Sinn Fein shouldn't be meeting dissidents at all. You'd think after nearly two decades of the peace process, we’d be in a position to tell the anti-democrats to take a hike. But again we're on the moral shifting sands of republican politics.

On the one hand, machinegun Marty describes the dissidents as “traitors to Ireland”; on the other Gerry Kelly ambiguously declaring that the head-the-balls “have the absolute right to disagree with the Sinn Fein strategy”.

Many will worry about what exactly that sentence means. Is Gerry talking an airy-fairy theoretical right to disagree with SF? Or a right to drive home that disagreement with bombs and murder bids on Catholic PSNI members? Or is it some weird SF grey area — the dissident campaign's not right but it ain't all wrong, either.

Wasn't all this meant to have been done and dusted with the peace process — the polls, north and south; the endless talks; decomissioning ... right down to the devolution of justice.

Wasn’t it about an agreement supported by the vast majority of people here against the diehards who refused to recognise the democratic mandate of the new institutions.

Or perhaps not. Maybe, in SF eyes, the dissidents always had ‘an absolute right' to go their own way. We're all equal but republicans are more equal than others.

Instead of cosying up to the 32-County Sovereignty Committee, Kelly and SF should be passing on to the police force they nominally support all they undoubtedly know about their diehard brothers who by the peace process's own definition really are ‘enemies of the people'.

Who knows? They may even stop the odd atrocity or two.

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