Dissident republicans: They have capacity to kill, but will never win
Published 25/02/2014 | 12:00
Mr Micawber, one of Charles Dickens' most famous characters, was always broke and permanently lived in the expectation that "something will turn up".
The remaining dissident republican groups seem a lot like a murderous version of David Copperfield's poor Micawber.
The PSNI believes that the dissidents will continue on with their campaign, tenacious but without prospect of success.
They hope for what the police term "a windfall".
They hope the security forces will shoot someone and cause an outcry.
They hope that the Stormont Executive will collapse at the next stand-off, Sinn Fein will be proved wrong all along and that power will be on the streets.
The problem is that even if a windfall lands in their lap, they are currently in no shape to take advantage of it.
In the past couple of years they had several opportunities to reach an international stage but succeeded in none of them.
They made little or no impact during the G8, Derry/Londonderry's city of Culture, the Haass talks, the Queen's visit and the World Police and Fire Games to name just a few potential opportunities to grab the limelight.
One reason for their failure to take the initiative is that their supply of weapons and useable explosives is fast diminishing.
Another is that the police and intelligence agencies are more than one step ahead of them.
Efforts to restock abroad have ended in stings by intelligence agencies that take their money, arrest their members and provide nothing in return.
Attempts to find a foreign sponsor have also put them into the hands of their enemies.
They embraced Dave Rupert, a six-foot native American who pledged an unlikely allegiance to the Irish cause and offered to fund them.
Few were surprised when he turned out to be an agent for both the FBI and MI5.
Far from being a millionaire, he was a broke businessman trying to get himself out of trouble with the taxman.
They have little support, scarcely enough people to hide their dwindling arsenal or provide alibis. When their prisoners go on hunger strike or protests of one sort or another it makes little impact, unless the case of an individual is taken up by Sinn Fein or the SDLP.
The idea of winning elections is no more than a distant dream. They are a discordant band playing nobody's tune and every act of violence further isolates them from the community.
This would have a comic side if their intent wasn't so deadly and any results so tragic.
Even a small band of desperados can occasionally kill or maim, or destroy property, if they are persistent enough.
What they can't do is achieve any political objective, never mind win.
The embittered leadership can send young men and women foolish enough to listen to it to their graves, or more likely these days, to jail.
It surely time for these pointless campaigns to be called off before they ruin more lives.