More than just a vote, it's a thumb in the dissidents' eye
Published 01/04/2011 | 08:00
May 5 is not just a chance to vote for our chosen parties and the virtues of the AV system. It is an opportunity to register support for the devolved institutions and a political way forward which is being directly challenged by armed groups of republican extremists.
Informed sources tell me that many of the dissidents are now questioning the use of violence, as any sane person would, and that some have recently resigned.
What is the strategy, for instance, behind leaving devices in mainly nationalist areas? What purpose is served by forcing hundreds of people out of their homes in north Belfast's Oldpark Road area? It is a strategy of tension; an attempt to accustom the whole community to the idea of an unresolved conflict, so that violence will come to be accepted as normal. It is also a message to Sinn Fein and SDLP supporters, in particular, that their parties' efforts at Stormont change nothing.
Showing that politics matter is an important reason to vote. It will not be missed by any dissidents rethinking their position.
Politicians also need to measure any critical comments about the police response to avoid raising terrorist morale.
Undermining nationalist support for the police is the dissidents' immediate objective.
Blaming the PSNI for the security situation, or even the disruption caused by bombs, holds out the hope that, if the bombers push hard enough, they will eventually turn the tide of opinion that is now running against them.