Dissidents are not patriots

As Mayor of the city I found myself last week, along with other public and civic representatives, condemning the device which was placed outside the City of Culture Offices in Waterloo Place.

As I stated at the time, it was an attack on the city, her people and the hope and expectation of jobs and investment in the years to come.

It is equally important to emphasise that such actions, and the attitudes which foster them, will not succeed.

I can say this with authority because for the first time in a generation, a momentum has been successfully cultivated, inclusive of all the various interests in our city.

It is a momentum which will harness all of our community’s talents and will follow a road map which will revive and renew our city.

The Regeneration Plan, the expansion of the University at Magee as well as the City of Culture, are not abstract documents or ideas.

They are clear and concise visions of the future we all wish to build. No act of violence will deflect from this burgeoning manifestation of hope.

This being said, it is vital that the flimsy justification given by the Real IRA for their actions be challenged.

Their redundant rhetoric should be exposed for the political fallacy it represents.

They claim that the City of Culture is a UK product, forcing those of a Nationalist/Republican mindset to surrender their identity or political aspiration. This could not be further from the truth.

Let me be very clear, the City of Culture events in 2013 will incorporate and include all political persuasions and traditions. It will not ignore the history or the impact of the Anglo-Irish relationship.

2013 will allow debate and discussion, yes about our polemic past but also about the possibilities of the present and the future. It will facilitate political persuasion but will set its face against intimidation and threats.

Perhaps it is dissident republicanism’s inability to articulate a coherent political platform which makes them fear the instigation of such a conversation.

There is however another overarching and fundamental point. The Real IRA and other militant groups should not delude themselves with the mythology that they are Irish patriots.

The patriots in this country are the men and women who work tirelessly to build a more peaceful and prosperous country.

The Nationalist people, the Republican people and the Unionist people of Ireland, North and South, have clearly spoken.

Those, like me, who hope to bring about the conditions where Irish unity will become a reality, have a duty to work the constitutional arrangements implemented within the Good Friday Agreement and voted into effect by all the people of this island. Unionism, likewise, has the freedom to promote the status quo.

This is the mandate by which we abide. To ignore this mandate is to work against the wishes of the Irish people. Derry and Ireland understand and support these arrangements.

Dissident republicanism’s callous campaign is therefore not directed towards the British Government.

Whether they admit it or not, their fight is now with the Irish people. We should constantly remind them of this reality.