Newsnight’s featured report last night by the excellent Liz MacKean on RAADS in Derry (extract) was a welcome if depressing reminder to the wider audience that is hasn’t all gone away you know. RAAD boasted that they have all the “resources” of the IRA. This is what you’d expect them to say, in the interview which was restaged with the use of actors. Just as graphic in the report was the sight of rubble and graffiti, the debris of a disturbed community, among so much new building. In the follow-up live two way, presenter Emily Maitlis’ posture of incredulity that all this was going on unsettled and surprised Justice Minister David Ford ( see in whole programme). Did he really expect understanding that it was all so difficult?
It was unwise to begin his reply by stressing his arms length role and the operational responsibility of the PSNI. Operational responsibility is a great old cop-out for the politicians, though David Ford is probably generally less guilty of evasion than most.
Paramilitary activity should be faced as a political problem for power sharing, not one to be ducked because of history. Ford’s argument was that it was important neither to exaggerate nor underplay the phenomenon. Well probably. But what we didn’t learn was what the wider community was doing about it. Are they still as helpless in the face of hoodlum violence as they were during the armed struggle? How mixed up is RAAD with dissident republicanism? And why do these hoods get bail when they go out and re-offend? I genuinely ask.
Former BBC journalist and manager in Belfast, Manchester and London, Editor Spolight; Political Editor BBC NI; Current Affairs Commissioning editor BBC Radio 4; Editor Political and Parliamentary Programmes, BBC Westminster; former London Editor Belfast Telegraph. Hon Senior Research Fellow, The Constitution Unit, Univ Coll. London