Belfast Telegraph

Call them what you like, they’re still terrorists

By Lindy McDowell

There are those who believe in fighting fire with fire. Then there’s the British government — who believe in fighting fire with name-calling...

According to weekend reports, the Government is proposing to diss the dissidents by officially referring to them in future as “criminals” and “terrorists”.

Take that, you blackguards!

In future, the word “republican” will not be used because the Government believes this gives the various groupings (on that side, obviously) credibility.

The descriptive term the NIO apparently favours instead is “criminal paramilitary gangs”.

What precisely — what practically — do they think this will achieve?

After all, calling people names doesn‘t actually make them go away. As you would imagine the, um, Brokeback Coalition might by now have realised.

True, there is an argument about how language can be used to glamorise terrorists. To suck in the gullible (of whom we appear to have an inexhaustible supply in Northern Ireland).

But at the root of this one is not the question of whether government should now be rebranding the dissidents as criminal paramilitary gangs.

It’s the dodgy issue of how it previously rebranded the so-called “mainstream” (republican and loyalist) as wholesome peace-processors.

The impression given is that it’s not the actual criminal paramilitary behaviour the Government objects to (will there be any sanctions against the UVF for the murder of Bobby Moffet?)

It’s whether or not the terror gangs are seen to be playing ball with the process.

ALL the so-called mainstream paramilitaries — despite their pompous freedom fighting posturing — have been up to their necks, and continue to be up to their necks, in criminality and gangsterism.

Who robbed the Northern Bank?

Who are the extortionists and drug dealers?

Who is behind the big counterfeiting operations?

The intimidation of their own communities?

The importation of contraband ciggies and hooch?

The fuel smuggling, the racketeering and money laundering?

Yup, hard to believe, I know.

But the same paramilitary paragons of virtue who got into the peace-processing bed with the Government the moment Westminster first began waving a cheque book at them. The mainstream didn’t just take the soup. They demanded the full menu of funding and perks. And they got it.

But they haven’t exactly given up their criminal paramilitary gangster ways in return. They’ve just sort of acquired a licence from the government to keep at it — albeit in a more restrained, “non-sanctioned” way.

You could call it taking the peace... But back to the issue of what we should now call those left behind when the parent organisations opted for the process that has become a pension plan for their main players.

Does the Government think that the media and the public will go along with any new name-calling diktat (if it actually materialises)?

In news reports, the descriptions ‘republican’ and ‘loyalist’ are used to identify from which side of the criminal paramilitary spectrum any gang comes.

I can’t see news outlets knocking that on the head just because the Government suddenly decides it’s too much information.

Meanwhile, I doubt the leadership of these criminal paramilitary outfits are themselves a-quiver with fear at the news they may be up for rebranding.

As anti-terror measures go, it’s not exactly throwing the book at the baddies...

Throwing the dictionary at them.

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