Editorial - Threats and talking

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The cowardly threat issued against Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness by dissident republicans shows just how far removed from reality these tiny groups are.

As a public figure who has repeatedly challenged repression and intimidation in the past, Mr McGuinness is not a stranger to threats. However in no way does this lessen the seriousness of the situation. It is totally and absolutely wrong.

Although the threat is directed against Mr McGuinness, given his position as Deputy First Minister it is also a threat to the entire democratic process, the institutions and everyone who casts their vote, regardless of who they support.

As a democratically elected figure, Mr McGuinness can legitimately claim to be acting in the name of the people; a claim often erroneously made by the unrepresentative militarists who issue these threats.

Of course not everyone agrees with Mr McGuinness, and that is their right, but they have the opportunity to express their opinion at the ballot box at election time.

These violent fanatics, no doubt afraid of the answer they would get, eschew the democratic process and continually seek to undermine it.

Waves of deserved condemnation have been heaped on them but a different approach is needed if the situation is to change. Dialogue with these groups may be an uncomfortable and unpopular prospect for many but it is the only way to begin to tackle the problem. Creating the correct environment for such a process will be incredibly difficult but ultimately unavoidable.