“Redoubling your effort, when you have forgotten your aim”

Brian Feeney in the Irish News this morning uses a couple of quotes from George Santayana to point to the essentially apolitical nature of the recent attacks by so called ‘dissident’ Republican paramilitary organisations:

“Don’t call them mindless. They are devious and dangerous, armed and ruthless. They are unable to articulate a political purpose. They have forgotten, if they ever knew, the original aims of republicanism where militarism was a tactic, not a principle.

“These groups see violence as an end in itself. They do not expect to be reasoned with. However they have achieved one success. They have united society in the north about how to respond to them.”

, , , ,

  • aquifer

    Maybe we now have fifestyle terrorists. No need to study for qualifcations, people do what you say no tax to pay.

    Or is it obsessive compulsive behaviour, doing the same thing again and expecting a different result?

    An itch scratched to a bleeding unsightly sore.

  • John Ó Néill

    @articulating a political purpose [to the murder of Ronan Kerr]

    Clearly a tactical aim is to provide no public articulation since, if you’re not in the conversation, you don’t have to provide any analysis. The political purpose, which is there, is fairly narrow – to present violence as the only possible catalyst for change (i.e. to represent civic engagement as a failure). Their hope would be to be drawn into the theatre of historic legitimacy since logic or reason aren’t valued highly in that context (in any current reality, legitimacy is chip wrapper country).
    I’m not sure that it is appropriate to debate this while the Kerr family are still preparing for the funeral, but the most significant response would be a concerted attempt to drag out a public discourse around the strategy being adopted by CIRA/RIRA/ONH. Many elephants will need to be brought into the room for that conversation. Violence as a catalyst is a political tactic if it is strategically sound (cf Libya). But, in or out of war, the pre-meditated taking of any human life is murder, in it’s legal sense, whatever the moral justification attached to it. If those who still believe that a united Ireland project can be successfully achieved via ‘political violence’, they need to offer a strategic analysis and accept and debate challenges to it. Silence suggests a lack of belief in their own analysis, which is the most telling analysis of all.

  • Niall

    “to present violence as the only possible catalyst for change”

    That’s a very good point and it is worth debating particularly at this time, despite how insensitive it is.

    It is very hard to understand the logic behind these sort of actions. Is it too naive to say that they lack any reason at all, that the motive isn’t to present violence as the only catalyst to change, but rather to engender fear through terrorism? That violence is the objective in itself.

    And by terrorism, I mean a completely academic view of the term; i.e. violence to bring about some non-economic change in government (policy).

    Do we give them too much credit? They don’t fit within traditional physical force Republicanism.

    Geographically, they seem to be coming from Fermanagh and North Armagh; areas that were not as active in the early years of the PIRA and through informants or otherwise, disengaged before the 1994 ceasefire. Could they just be a group of people who missed the boat first time round, who feel they didn’t get their chance? If that was the case, then the violence really would be an end in itself.

  • Brian Walker

    Not mindless indeed, and I’m with Richard English on Today this morning ( and several English conversations since). the political purpose is the same as ever , hallowed by their version of history. While they may not ” articulate a political purpose” they hardly need to. It’s political all right.

    We’ve had this debate before and we’ll have to again. It shows that the republican tradition is far from unbroken but that history is repeating itself. with the cause of physical force republicanism moving from orthodoxy to dissidence and back again.. and again.. Not in full, we must hope, and not for long. .

    John O Neill above evokes another more peaceful tradition, that of a truce on contention during a period of mourning. In its time of violence it seemed like superstition to me, hyprocrisy even. Today, while no hypocrisy is involved, it’s surely redundant – and all the more so in this case in view of the heroic plea of the dead boy’s ‘mother for Catholics not to be deterred from joining the police.

    The obvious difference from the past of almost a century ago is that no western State today is willing to apply the ruthless and illegal force of the 1920s. And probably – though it will never be proved – nor would any community or section bow to it.