I wanted to get this out on Slugger on Monday night when Minister for Foreign Affairs Micheál Martin made this speech to a large group of community workers in the Royal Hospital in Kilmainham, but travel committments and data roaming costs prevented me. His reference to ‘communities living under the shadow of a gunman’ also being the most deprived didn’t go down too well in some quarters of the audience and the point was made (with some considerable passion) from the floor that there may have been cause (the deprivation) and effect (the emergence of the paramilitaries).
Nevertheless in total, it was one of the boldest critiques yet publicly made by a Republican politician of any stripe on the political aspect of dissident violence:
The activities of dissident republican groups have grabbed the headlines of late, whether it is through their intent to stoke up and cause resentment at difficult interface areas or on a more sinister note, through the maiming and killing of people, attacking the police in wanton disregard for the lives of police officers and the wider community.
Let me be clear on my views of this activity. As a democrat, as an elected representative of a political party proud of and committed to its republican tradition, I deplore their actions and call on them to stop.
The term of dissident was a badge of honour in the cold war. It meant you stood for democracy and the rule of law against totalitarianism. These groups have absolutely no entitlement to that name.
Nor are they true republicans – true republicanism is the coming together of the green and the orange in tolerance and mutual understanding. If anything these groups are de facto partitionists whose actions serve to further divide and to alienate the people of this island from one another – catholic from protestant; Nationalist from Unionist; northerner from southerner.
Twelve years ago the people of this island voted together in favour of the Good Friday Agreement. When the overwhelming majority of the people of Ireland voted for the Agreement, we said clearly and categorically that violence was not the way to resolve political differences. Instead, the way forward was on the basis of consent.
The people of Ireland, North and South, have said clearly that the only viable road to unity on this island lies through peace, tolerance, persuasion and agreement. Those that reject these principles perpetuate the divisions on the island.