Maurice Hayes at John Hewitt summer school

The BBC’s Arts Extra was from the John Hewitt summer school on Monday. I was driving past the Armagh exit on the M1 at the time and was sorely tempted to turn south. Elenwe would have gone mad, however; ah the problems of being married. Since I did not go to it I cannot comment much on the events. The Irish Times has an article about Maurice Hayes’ lecture on the peace process; entitled “A Game of Two Halves.”Dr. Hayes said (very validly in my view), “one thing that should not be allowed is the glorification in song or story of what was mean and nasty and dirty”. There is always a danger that with the march of time past violence can seem exciting and interesting rather than horrible and brutal. I have mentioned such things previously and indeed as an example Séan South is now seen in some quarters as a romantic hero instead of a foolish young men who attempted to murder people and only managed in the process to die along with a friend in a lonely shack on the mountain road between Fivemiletown and Rosslea..

Another part of his argument which I fundamentally disagree with is the suggestion: “…there is always the risk of the re-emergence of a cyclical pattern as a generation of young people who have not experienced the actuality, the horror and the cost of violence, react against the ineffectiveness of politics and politicians, their predecessors having been persuaded to turn away from violence on the promise that politics could deliver,”

This argument is quite a common one and I have discussed previously. If correct it condemns us to proceed “forwards” forever but since the two communities have fundamentally different envisaged destinations our political Flying Dutchman’s movement is likely to be random (even Brownian) and the need for movement could itself pull the whole ship apart, a bit like the MV Derbyshire.

Looking at idea of a return to violence itself, I find it a disturbing analysis. Who would do the returning to violence? Not the dissident republicans or rejectionist loyalists: they have not stopped so there is no returning to violence for them. They reject the whole process so its movement or lack thereof is irrelevant to them.

Alternatively one might argue that the implicit suggestion is that if they were annoyed enough the mainstream republican movement might recommence violence. If that is the case then everyone else should and possibly would leave the executive. If IRA violence “hasn’t gone away you know” and if Gildernew’s comments from the past about a future generation of republicans returning to violence are correct then we do not have peace, we have appeasement. In such a scenario democrats should run a mile from republicans.

The above of course is in part a TUV position and is the idea I have floated frequently on slugger. I strongly suspect that this is not what Dr. Hayes is suggesting. Instead I suspect he means something in the middle with the possibility that if politics is not working to deliver their agenda future republicans might gradually drift into supporting potentially violent positions and eventually a spark would re-ignite violence or it would simply ramp up. This would chime with his concerns regarding the glorification of violence. Again I find this a most disturbing analysis. Even if SF were not organising it: is Dr. Hayes really suggesting that if republicans do not get their shopping list delivered they may lose control of their more violently minded members / supporters? If republicans now get enough to placate them why would future republicans not demand more and again the implicit (if far off) threat of a return to violence would justify them getting what the want. The cycle could and logically would continue. As such Dr. Hayes’ suggestion of the danger of a cyclical return to violence is practically a certainty unless we give in to republican demands.

Again in all this the problem is the “peace process.” Rather than a single dichotomous position peace vs violence we have a process where it seems peace is never quite achieved but instead we have an “unpeace”. One day someone needs to say that republicans will not get anything more unless they can get it through wholly democratic means and that the British and Irish governments need to say that they do not care at all if a given thing (like P&J devolution) does not happen. The problem of course is the fear of unravelling the process. Clearly I am biased but to me this shows that this is a house built on sand and “And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell: and great was the fall of it.” (Matthew 7:27). I hope (but doubt) that Peter Robinson was able to delve foundations based on rock at St. Andrews.

This author has not written a biography and will not be writing one.