Visit part of new anti-dissident strategy
Category: Northern Ireland
Published: 12th Oct 2010 14:23:33
The visit to Lurgan's Kilwilkie estate by Irish Foreign Minister Micheal Martin was a sign of a new approach to the dissident republican threat.
Rather than pretend that the dissidents will go away if they are left alone and totally ignored, the Irish government was keen to be seen to tackle them head on.
The visit seemed to herald a subtle change of tack.
The estate has a small, hardline faction opposed to the peace process, and supportive of violence. Republican slogans are painted on walls, along with warnings to the police to keep out.
But the Dublin minister came to make it clear that the Irish government - and the people of the island, including those in Lurgan - were against them.
Hot tea and buttered scones were served in North Lurgan Community Centre which is in the heart of the estate.
The minister was treated to a DVD and chats with local school children.
Yet behind the smiles, the eating, the drinking and the glad-handing, there was a serious message.
Minister Martin said those involved in the recent violence were not even worthy of the name "dissident".
The dissidents do not have any political representatives at Stormont and they are reluctant to run in next year's assembly election at the risk of being humiliated”
Sinn Fein's Martin McGuinness has called them "traitors", "conflict junkies" and most recently "neanderthals".
The Irish foreign minister used his own words.
He said: "Dissident is a completely inappropriate term in my view.
"Dissident relates to people of conscience during the Cold War, and that term has no application to the kind of indiscriminate bombings which have taken place, or the murder of police officers or British Army personnel.
"They're betraying the republican tradition. In my view they will not succeed."
That is also the view of local politicians like Sinn Fein's John O'Dowd and the SDLP's Delores Kelly.
They were there to meet the minister and help introduce him to young people who have resisted the lure of the dissidents.
Significantly, the dissidents do not have any political representatives at Stormont and they are reluctant to run in next year's assembly election at the risk of being humiliated.
The vast majority of people in Lurgan have rejected violence. However, the fear is that as unemployment in the area grows, more young people will get involved in trouble.
Most dissidents are in their 20s or early 30s, and they are mainly male.
Many of them are too young to remember the worst days of Northern Ireland's troubles.
However, their ranks have been boosted by a small number of hardened ex-members of the Provisional IRA. They have either become disillusioned with the peace process, or become bored after failing to acclimatise to a life without violence.
Some of the car-bombs and under-car booby-trap devices used in recent months have been similar in design to devices used 20 years ago by the IRA.
As for the overall number of dissidents, it is difficult to be exact. Some estimates say there are around 500 in Northern Ireland and maybe 200 in the Irish Republic.
Not all of them would be prepared to plant a bomb or fire a gun, but they would give direct or indirect support.
Research published last week by Jon Tonge, professor of politics at the University of Liverpool, suggested that support is small but growing.
In a survey, 14% of nationalists said they had sympathy for the reasons why some republican groups such as the Real and Continuity IRA continue to use violence.
In many ways, the visit by Micheal Martin to the Kilwilkie estate was an acknowledgement that increased security alone will not defeat the dissidents.
A policy of persuasion is needed too. It seems that process is now under way.
At 23:01:53 in ScotlandThe Commonwealth Games is 11 days of non-stop action.
At 22:40:56 in HeadlinesThe last surviving member of the US air crew that dropped an atomic bomb on Hiroshima has died in Georgia aged 93.
At 22:35:14 in EnglandA man has died from a suspected "fatal reaction" to a drug taken at a party in Newcastle, police have said.
At 22:34:17 in SportCastleford Tigers forward Weller Hauraki has been suspended for two matches after pleading guilty to "recklessly striking with his knees" in the 18-18 draw against Hull FC.
At 22:32:49 in SportManchester United continued their impressive form in the Premier section of the Milk Cup by beating Co Armagh 3-0 at the Riada Stadium in Ballymoney.
At 22:31:11 in SportEngland's Yana Rattigan took silver in the women's freestyle 48kg at the Commonwealth Games, losing 11-8 to Vinesh of India in the final.
At 22:11:22 in ScotlandA second man has been arrested and charged in connection with a £1m robbery at a jewellery store in Edinburgh.
At 22:10:18 in SportAdam Jones is set to sign a contract with Ospreys once the regions and Welsh Rugby Union (WRU) agree a new deal over the funding of the domestic game.
At 22:07:50 in EnglandThree women and two men have been charged as part of an investigation into staged car crashes and fake insurance claims in Wirral.
At 22:05:30 in EnglandThe first flamingo egg in eight years has been laid at a wildlife centre in Wearside, according to the charity that runs it.
Harvard CitationBBC News, 2010. Visit part of new anti-dissident strategy [Online] (Updated 12th Oct 2010)
Available at: http://www.ukwirednews.com/news/98240/Visit-part-of-new-anti-dissident-strategy [Accessed 29th Jul 2014]
News In Other Categories
The last surviving member of the US air crew that dropped an atomic bomb on Hiroshima has died in Georgia aged 93.
For the past 20 years, families in Northern Ireland have given up part of their summer holidays to host children affected by the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear disaster
A libel case brought by a Conservative assembly member has been adjourned and is unlikely to resume until next year.
A ban on steel-string guitars in prison cells in England and Wales has been reversed after a campaign by rock stars including Billy Bragg and Johnny Marr.
The Commonwealth Games is 11 days of non-stop action.
A retired senior diplomat has suggested that "much anti-Semitism is a reaction to the appalling Israeli treatment of its Arab neighbours".