One of the most interesting aspects of the shifting patterns of the game, has been the transference of terms like ‘criminal’ as the prime discriptor for the dissident Republican paramilitaries from Sinn Fein to the Secretary of State Shawn Woodward. It may have been co-opted in order to provide some cover/support for the Deputy First Minister and his party, but Malachi O’Doherty reckons it could end up making things a hell of a lot worse:
Those of us who remember the Troubles will recognise the tone of unction in the statements of condemnation of the Massereene murders. They will be wincing at the prospect of well intentioned people making things worse.
Secretary of State Shaun Woodward’s appraisal of the soldiers killed as fine young men who wanted to save lives serving in Afghanistan may have been perfectly true. But, if not, it makes no difference to the ghastliness of their murder and the scale of the political problems created by this ambush.
It does, however, have the potential to rattle a republican culture which doesn’t want to see endorsement of the army’s role in Afghanistan as part of the moral package it has bought into through the peace process.
In fact, to many it will smack of lines being drawn between those who revere that role and those who want to murder soldiers. It would be better to focus on the politics of Northern Ireland and leave Afghanistan out of it.
Woodward will achieve nothing by sounding off plummily as if he thinks he only needs to be heard in the Home Counties.
Does Woodward know, for instance, the resonance of the word criminal’ in republican culture? Yet he uses the word so often you would think he was deliberately trying to echo Margaret Thatcher in his taunting of the dissidents.
These are hard times and a lot of people are going to have to try and think a little more like their old enemies if we are to get through them.
Mick is founding editor of Slugger. He has written papers on the impacts of the Internet on politics and the wider media and is a regular guest and speaking events across Ireland, the UK and Europe. Twitter: @MickFealty