Belfast Telegraph

Kevin Doyle: We must make them see there is no place for their twisted ideology

Gardai allowed Saoradh to parade in Dublin city centre on Saturday
Gardai allowed Saoradh to parade in Dublin city centre on Saturday

By Kevin Doyle

Can a demonstration be described as 'peaceful' if it represents everything that goes against peace?

The sinister images of pretend soldiers marching down O'Connell Street over the weekend should strike fear into all our hearts. It raises so many questions about what 'Irish freedom' means.

In their assessment of whether to allow dissident republicans to parade less than 48 hours after the murder of Lyra McKee, gardai seem to have made a judgment call on what would be the least worst outcome.

Would it better to simply monitor the situation or step in and risk a riot?

There were no incidents reported to gardai during or following the paramilitary parade.

It stands to reason that the parade itself would amount to an 'incident', but not so.

There is no statutory permit or licence required for groups to assemble in public places.

In other words, groups are free to gather and protest no matter what the cause.

Yet that doesn't make it right. As a society there are some things that are just unacceptable.

Free speech must come with a responsibility to uphold basic decency.

Saoradh was founded in September 2016 and claims to be a "revolutionary party". It has been described as the political wing of the New IRA, which means very little.

It claims a non-existent mandate to establish a united 32-county socialist republic in place of Stormont and "the British created neo-colonial 26-county state administered by Leinster House".

"Saoradh aims to build campaigns to fight back against imperialism and capitalism empowering the Irish people in the struggle to regain our sovereignty, reunite our nation and build a new and fair society," its mission states, adding: "Don't emigrate. Agitate!"

The message brought by the group's chairman, Brian Kenna, and others is from a different era.

But we can't just ignore them. It's what they hope to achieve that should worry us.

Perhaps their march through Dublin was all about publicity. Or perhaps they hoped to antagonise gardai. But it cannot be seen as a show of strength. People and the politicians they have elected must retain the power.

That means our TDs and councillors ensuring adequate laws are in place to ensure such a pathetic pageant can't happen again.

And it means those in Northern Ireland coming together to show the beret buffoons that there is no space for their twisted ideology.

There is a clear pathway to Irish unity through the Good Friday Agreement. When the time is right people will decide at the ballot box - but Saoradh are only likely to drive people back to their entrenched positions of old.

Dublin and Derry have never been closer - but it's a dangerous time.

  • Kevin Doyle is group political editor of the Irish Independent

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