Belfast Telegraph

McAleese says dissidents aided by failure of political leaders

Former President of Ireland Mary McAleese
Former President of Ireland Mary McAleese
Donna Deeney

By Donna Deeney

Disrupting dissident republican rhetoric needs to be the priority for political leaders in the wake of Lyra McKee's death, former Irish President Mary McAleese has said.

She said she believes the murder of the journalist, who was from her native north Belfast, will not stop the violence from groups such as the New IRA largely because of inexperienced political leaders here.

"Leaders should be able to push out into the deep, out into place where they know their constituents are nervous about going," Mrs McAleese said.

"Leaders need to be able to say: 'This is where we need to go to and I am going to go there and I want you to follow me.'

"We are looking at an issue to do with political inexperience and we really don't have the time for them to grow because as we can see the wheels are beginning to come off because of a lack of that experience.

"The Good Friday Agreement taught us that the overwhelming majority of people in Northern Ireland are not wedded to the use of violence, they don't want violence in their community.

"When I saw that event in St Anne's Cathedral, did I think it was going to change anything, did I think it was going to radically overhaul, did I think it was going to fill in the horrendous vacuum in politics? I am afraid I didn't.

"We have been here too many times before but would it be enough to push the political leaders who have stayed out of government for over two years?

"If you could embarrass them into it, I don't think we would have been waiting this length of time.

"They turned up to a funeral to show what we always knew - that they are opposed to violence - but haven't shown up for over two years to actually enter into talks."

Mrs McAleese said the reasons for that are well-known.

"It's because of the red lines that have been set, the failure to really enter into the spirit of the Good Friday Agreement, to really make parity of esteem work," she added.

Mrs McAleese said the focus for politicians should be breaking the grip of dissident republican groups.

She added: "I believe in this moment right now our priority right now is to stop those smug conversations that allow 18 and 19-year-olds who have enjoyed the peace, to allow them to go out with guns."

She called on people to "disrupt" those conversations.

"The dissidents, who are a small body of people who never subscribed to the Good Friday Agreement, never subscribed to the policy of parity of esteem, never believed in shared government.

"They believe that politics don't work and that paramilitarism does.

"All around them is evidence that politics is not working in Northern Ireland but that the fact that politics is paralysed, the fact that politics is chaotic is absolutely no excuse to resorting to paramilitarism as an answer to political problems.

"They need to get that message from the people around them, from the people who might have been tempted to offer them support."

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