23/Aug/2014 - Last News Update: 18:03

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.

BBC News External Link Show Citation

Latest News

Harvard Citation

BBC 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 23rd Aug 2014]

News In Other Categories

  • Scottish independence: Campaigns set out rival visions of NHS

    The "Yes" and "No" campaigns in the independence referendum have set out rival visions of the NHS in Scotland.
  • Evan Blass: King of the leakers

    Can you keep a secret? The technology industry sure can't.
  • Briton in Sierra Leone tests positive for Ebola - DoH

    A British national living in Sierra Leone has tested positive for Ebola, the UK's Department of Health has said.
  • Bristol Academy extends reach overseas with first foreign students

    With the doors to its brand new £1million training centre officially open, one of the UK's leading apprentice training providers, Bristol based S&B Automotive Academy, is showcasing its world-class facilities by launching a series of foreign student exchanges for the first time in its 41-year history. To get a flavour of what life is like as an apprentice in the UK, the Academy hosted 16 apprentice engineers and bus drivers from the G9 Automotive College in Hamburg, Germany, as part of a Europe-wide vocational training initiative called the ‘Leonardo Programme’ with support from the European Social Fund. In a reciprocal arrangement, S&B will be sending nine apprentices to Germany during February 2012 so that they can get an appreciation of life in the automotive industry on the Continent. A further three German exchange groups are being planned for next year. Designed to assist the development of vocational skills and training across Europe, including work placements for trainees, the Leonardo Programme has a budget of €1.75bn, which is helping to encourage UK organisations to work with their counterparts abroad. In what is expected to be another challenging year for employers in the UK automotive sector, S&B’s Chief Executive, Jon Winter, claims that the exchange initiative will bring many benefits to the Academy and its apprentices: “In a world of global automotive brands, it’s important for our learners to understand the international context of the industry they have chosen to make their career. This new exchange programme will enable apprentices and Academy staff alike to achieve a better understanding of the challenges and opportunities within the automotive arena in Europe. With the Academy’s influence also extending to the USA and Asia, there’s every possibility that this initiative could move further afield in the future.” Continued Winter: “The need for skilled technicians across the world is on the increase and we actively encourage our apprentices to look at broader horizons during their training. Many of them have already learned the phrase ‘Vorsprung durch Gelehrtheit’, quite simply, ‘Advancement through learning.” In the 2010/11 academic year, S&B doubled the number of successful Apprenticeships over the previous year with some 350 apprentices graduating from the Academy. At the same time, achievement levels reached an all-time high with an overall success rate of 85%. For those learners on the Advanced Apprenticeship three-year programme, success rates were even higher, at over 98%. PHOTO CAPTION: As part of their exchange visit, S&B Automotive Academy arranged for the German apprentices to visit Hampshire bus operator, Bluestar, at its Barton Park depot. The students are pictured with S&B’s Andy West (3rd right) and Steve Prewett, Bluestar’s Area Engineering Manager (2nd right). Ends http://www.sandbaa.com
  • Woman critical after Manchester 'attack'

    A woman has been left in a critical condition in hospital after suffering a serious neck injury in a suspected assault.
  • China's Beijing Independent Film Festival shut down

    The authorities in China have shut down the 11th Beijing Independent Film Festival on its opening day.