The calls for dialogue with dissidents currently being made in support of Sinn Fein’s desire to meet with representatives of dissident groups are audacious in their chutzpah, their breathtaking guile. Brian Rowan and the Andersonstown News, both now supportive of this new initiative of Sinn Fein’s, write as if the recent past, and their participation in it, never happened. The slavish devotion to Sinn Fein and the needs of the peace process, no matter how one day night is day and the next day is night, is breathtaking.
While these overtures for engagement are being played up, it must be remembered that the peace process and its media cheerleaders demanded that any and all dissent be quashed for the peace process to succeed. Censorship abounded; those who questioned SF – on purely intellectual grounds, not in any armed capacity – were to be silenced, their ideas to be kept hidden, denied existence. It was more important to maintain the momentum of the peace process train than it was to ensure all parts were in working order by giving room to dissent and its ability to ask awkward questions and force things to be fixed before their negligence drove the whole thing off the rails. Gerry Adams in the IRA? Move along. The IRA actively kidnapping, torturing, and in some cases killing dissidents? SF covering up the murderous activity of its IRA members? No; no one wanted to talk about things like this, and what it would mean, and where the fall out of that could take us.
The media for the most part colluded in this papering over, willfully going along with the blacklisting of people who were prepared to offer a differing view. Those few journalists who did work to highlight the dark side of the peace process were vilified, in some cases harassed by government forces, yet it is their work today that stands the test of time and informs us truthfully of what the whole of the peace process meant. “Journalists Against the Peace Process” as one of the Peace Processers labelled them, knew that talking to dissidents was key to ensuring that the peace process stuck – real grievances don’t go away, they fester.
Make no mistake, dissidents today are against the British presence in Ireland. But for them, it’s currently embodied, not by the solider on the street, or the Prime Minister, or even the Queen, but by their former comrades, the most immediate administrators and implementers of British rule. The strongest venom is directed at these former comrades in part because for all these years they would not listen. Underneath the swanning of the peace process, these comrades ensured that anyone who raised an objection or questioned the direction was swiftly put down, in whatever manner necessary. For some this was ostracisation, whisper campaigns, social isolation; others lost jobs or were threatened with losing work, or unable to attain work; some were threatened physically and others had threats followed through: kidnapped, brutally beaten, shot dead. Some people were not dissidents but became a dissenter of sorts through the attacks and murders of their loved ones, and the subsequent, sickening cover ups. The same media today that is telling us how needed dialogue with dissidents is were the same media who then either told us nothing of this, or told us outright lies about what really happened in order to protect Sinn Fein.
Is it truly a surprise then, this offer of “talks” is ridiculed, viewed with disdain, seen as a stunt? SF could have talked with any of the so-called “dissidents” at any point over of the last dozen years. Instead, they chose to censor, to bury, to disappear their very existence. They refused to share platforms at public meetings, point blank told media outlets that they would not go on radio or TV if a known “dissident” would also be on the program. They actively discouraged media outlets from engaging with or publishing the alternative viewpoints of “dissidents” and told journalists that they would no longer work with them if they were found to be speaking with named people. To their shame, the media complied.
All of this has left the very real concerns, the gaping hole between what was promised and what was delivered, to fester in republican communities. They haven’t gone away, and the more they were left unanswered, or inadequately answered in the form of smears instead of substance, the more they grew. The disparity between those supporting the lie and those questioning it also grew, leading more to question, especially as more money poured into republican areas for “community work” yet less and less of the community benefited and the areas became steadily worse. Is it any wonder then, that younger people, and disillusioned older people, are finding dissident organisations attractive? They, at least, are listening, truly listening, to their grievances and attempting to do something about them, however misguided and completely futile. Dissident groups aren’t telling these people they are monsters, or bitter, or eejits; they are validating their concerns, showing them that they aren’t alone in thinking there is something rotten in the north.
And there is something rotten in the north, no amount of peace process fudge can hide its stench. The lies of the process are coming home to roost. Truth commission? That’s where the dialogue should start – with some home truths about betrayals, lies, and failures. The media should come clean as well, and expose the pressures that went on, even if it exposes their own craven complicity in doing so. At least if we are given the chance to accept the truth of things for what they are, and have confirmed the loaded deck we were dealt from, we can then move on to making the most out of what we’ve got. Until then, as along as we are force-fed a diet of fudge, dissidents will keep vomiting it up at the most inopportune times.
Reporters ‘covered up truth’ about IRA to help peace
Spectre of Martin O’Hagan’s unsolved murder refuses to fade as press freedom takes a back seat on the road to peace in Northern Ireland
The Agreed Truth & The Real Truth: The New Northern Ireland (scroll to “Journalists Against Journalism”)
BBC journalists have responsibility to the public
A watch list of provo “Stormont Trooper” assaults and abductions