“You probably won’t listen to me,” said Chief Superintendent Stephen Martin at his press conference after that bomb near the courthouse. The Chief Superintendent was attempting to recognise the reality of how what he had to say would be perceived by dissidents. But those responsible for the bomb probably did listen to him – it’s just that no matter what he had to say, they’d take it as a vindication.
The Chief Superintendent went on to ask the bombers to, instead, “Listen to the people of Derry”. He also told them, “You have no mandate, no legitimacy, and you are not wanted.” I’m not sure if Mr Martin was aware of the irony but that’s exactly what the dissidents would say about him! In any case, having “no mandate” is a badge of honour for those committed to the ‘armed struggle’. Democracy, unless the mandate from the 1918 election extends to all future generations and lasts forever, doesn’t matter to them – the ‘armed struggle’ is all. The leaders of the Easter Rising had no democratic mandate either. They weren’t listening to the people of Dublin, they had no legitimacy and they weren’t wanted but they’re all heroes now.
Ritualistic condemnation of dissidents – especially by police officers – isn’t just a waste of breath, it’s counter productive.
If dissidents are only encouraged by condemnation from police officers the same rule is likely to apply to this column so I’ll stick to just a couple of points.
For a ‘war’ to be morally justifiable it has to have a realistic chance of success. The problem is that ‘armed struggle’ only serves to make our existing divisions even worse and to add to the weight of bitterness that is already weighing us down. Isn’t it a simple fact that we have made more progress in the 13 years since the Good Friday Agreement than we did in the 30 or more years that preceded it?
And, for any ‘war’ to be morally justifiable all peaceful means have to be exhausted first. The legitimate objective of a re-united 32 county Ireland can clearly be achieved by democratic means. Indeed, in peaceful conditions it’s more likely to happen much quicker than it is in an atmosphere of continuing violence.