Belfast Telegraph

Of course we need to talk to terrorists

By Nuala McKeever

The Government says: “We won't engage in talks with any group unless it is committed to exclusively peaceful means”.

Aye right. What is the problem with the Government admitting that it is talking to people who think killing other human beings is a smart way to get what they want?

Why this phony posturing? Isn't talking to people the only way to change anything? (Besides, if the Government really did use “exclusively peaceful means” as a criterion for talking to others, that would rule out being able to talk to most western governments including itself.)

The inherent ludicrousness of saying “Dialogue is the only way to achieve peace but we won't talk to the ones who are causing the problem,” is blindingly obvious, isn't it?

If the Yanks aren't talking to Al Qaida then they're mad. We all know that the long intractable physical battles taking place around the world won't be resolved militarily.

Jaw Jaw isn't just better than War War, it's crucial.

David Cameron promised a more transparent style of government when he came to power. He could start by wising up and admitting what we all know is going on anyway.

To deny it is like a child with chocolate all round his mouth standing there saying, “I didn't touch the chocolate cake, honest!”

Why shouldn't talks be going on anyway? Is there anyone out there who still thinks that talking to “the enemy” is a sign of weakness?

Talking is not about appeasing or agreeing or condoning. It's about talking and listening. Exposing your own and being exposed to another person's point of view.

I remember years ago, working on a TV documentary, I interviewed a female Sinn Fein party worker. I asked her how safe she felt socialising outside west Belfast, after one of her party colleagues was murdered in a bar in Botanic Avenue. I always remember her reply ’cos it chilled me at the time. She said “Oh, I don't have a problem ’cos I never go out of west Belfast.”

How can entrenched views ever change, if the people who hold them never hear anything to challenge those views? This isn't rocket science.

If that scary uncle who refused to condemn his own niece nearly being killed was exposed to something other than his own narrow prejudice perhaps he'd find a way out of the hellish world view in which he's obviously stuck.

I wonder what sort of card he'll send her on her next birthday. Clintons do cards for almost every possible permutation — “Happy Christmas to my lovely daughter and her live-in boyfriend” (I saw that once, seriously) but I think even they would struggle to find a market for “Happy Birthday to my niece whose death would have made a million and a half people suddenly all want to be in a United Ireland” — would it be in the ‘Complete Lack of Irony’ section?

Why the Government would think we'd believe the “we won't talk to terrorists” line is beyond me.

As least-trustworthy lines go, it's right up there with the one Margaret Thatcher used to trot out when the Press was speculating that one of her ministers might be about to get the chop.

Maggie'd come on TV and state categorically, “His position is unassailable”.

Next day the poor sod would be out on his ear. It was the political equivalent of the curse of Hello!

So don't insult our intelligence. Please.

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