Sorry dissidents yesterday's men
Published 22/04/2014 | 11:00
The words of Gary Donnelly of the 32 County Sovereignty Movement delivered at the organisation's Easter commemoration are like a distant echo of the Troubles.
His complaints that the movement has been bombarded with lies, spin and propaganda from the media and State agencies and that members have been demonised could have been lifted straight from a republican soundtrack of the Seventies or Eighties. It is the old appeal of victimhood.
The only new thing in his speech was the main target of his vitriol, Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness.
In the time-honoured tradition of splitting republicanism, Mr McGuinness is accused of selling out to the British establishment. It is dissident republicans who now claim to be the true inheritors of the tradition of 1916 and the Easter Rising. We have heard it all before and it makes as little sense now as it ever did. The biggest difference is that people like Mr Donnelly are now speaking to smaller and smaller audiences.
There are always diehards within republicanism who feel that Britain must somehow – preferably by force – be expelled from Northern Ireland. It is a message that belongs to the past.
Mainstream republicanism has learned that lesson and knows that politics is the real weapon in their armoury.
Some people may criticise the PSNI for letting groups like the 32 County Sovereignty Movement spout their anti-British messages, but the decision to monitor the event closely and observe if anything illegal took place was probably the wisest course of action. There was little point in creating a physical flashpoint which would only have been a propaganda victory for the dissidents and give them the excuse to vilify the police.
If Mr Donnelly really thinks that he has a message for today's generation, then he should look to the forthcoming council elections and see how the dissidents stack up against the established parties, especially Sinn Fein. That will be the true measure of what the public thinks of his organisation and the other dissident groups.