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  • irishtimes.com - Posted: March 13, 2009 @ 10:42 am

    When will they ever learn?

    Deaglán de Bréadún

    The worldwide reaction to the killings of the British soldiers and the Craigavon police officer has been very striking. One senses a deep international disappointment that a problem which seemed to have been resolved is now unravelling.

    Even Al Jazeera’s English-language station got in on the act. The present writer was asked to go on a news-discussion programme with the great Eamonn Mallie, one of the doyens of the N.I. journalistic scene. I took part in the show from a studio in Dublin.

    Eamonn has vast experience in the North and placed great importance on Martin McGuinness’s description of the republican dissidents as “traitors”. I take it this means that Sinn Fein will support the security crackdown on the dissidents that is already taking shape.

     How that crackdown is conducted is very important. The old cliché that “repression breeds violence” is only a cliché because it’s true. It is vital in these situations to retain the high moral ground. In a wider context recently we saw Israel concede that ground to the Palestinians when they responded to the immoral Hamas rocket attacks with a disproportionate display of force that led to the deaths of many innocent civilians especially children.

    On the Al Jazeera programme there was another guest who wanted the dissidents “hunted down like animals”. That’s daft talk and plays right into the hands of those who want a return to turmoil and heartbreak. Remember how Internment and Bloody Sunday swelled the ranks of the IRA and fuelled a campaign that lasted more than 20 years?

     When will they ever learn?

    • robespierre says:

      There are two issues here:

      a) a quick response to provide assurance to people who have been working across divides in the north and agreeing of what can be agreed
      b) look to resolve the criminal component that lurks beneath a blanket of pseudo-nationalism

      To do the former they need to shoot a hostage (so to speak) to prove how serious they are about cracking down. A dawn raid to arrest and bring all known CIRA and RIRA members in and kept for 48 hours under Omagh legislation would work as this act is particularly symbolic. A few senior superintendents talking in general about people they know to be organising terrorism should also help as on the oath of a Super anyone suspected of terrorism can be convicted.

      To do the latter they literally need to stake these people out and make their lives a living hell. Go through their social welfare history, track their driving, movements, cell phone and internet use 24 hours a day. If they do that (as was done successfully in Hong Kong and Japan) they will contain the problem in a bubble and remove the tissue of republicanism from the criminality and hate-crimes.

    • Paul says:

      Deaglán,

      The media reaction to the week’s developments has been extraordinary.

      Some commentators suggested the real problem in N. Ireland is a reluctance or inability to forget the past. In the glare of such an intense spotlight it is no wonder this may be so.

      On a Channel 4 programme last night the presenter interviewed editors of N. Ireland’s main broadsheet newspapers, questioning whether their coverage of events had been proportionate. The answers given were along the lines that the papers provided their readership with they wanted.

      And 14 pages in one given day was, indeed, proportionate. People on the streets were talking of nothing else.

      The answer was self-serving and did not address – in some ways it endorsed – the presenter’s implication that objective journalism had been cast aside.

      To put myself in the shoes, or balaclava, of a terrorist I would be revelling in the level of attention, regardless of public opinion, that the acts carried out have attracted. Nothing like interest to boost the ego.

      For me, the straw that broke the camel’s back was a radio news bulletin. A Polish friend of one of the pizza delivery drivers spoke in anguish of how they only came to Northern Ireland to work. While her comments were undoubtedly justifiable, of news worthiness what was gained by airing these comments in the context of national news?

      If it is to gain the view of a minority community then her views are biased, she knew the victim.

      During the week, Eamonn Mallie divulged his opinion that Northern security forces did not expect, and were not prepared for, these events. In such a precarious, delicate situation were these comments, however true, responsible journalism?

      When the financial meltdown began sometime in autumn 2008 my hunch was the Irish media had en masse forgot the ethics they learned at university, or wherever. Stories were made out of stories. Social responsibility took a holiday.

      Confidence, as we all now know, is crucial. Sure, media’s responsibility is to uncover the truth. But there’s reporting the truth in an objective sense and propagating developments for the sole sake of stories. But I suppose, after all, even journalists need to eat and pay bills.

    • Joanna Tuffy T.D. says:

      Things have changed in Northern Ireland and that has come across in the interviews that have been shown over the past few days on the TV with loyalist and republican figures. Don’t forget that there have been many people who have been through the whole process of conflict resolution and they have a very different outlook to what they had years ago. I couldn’t find a link but Alex Attwood MLA had a piece in the Examiner yesterday and he went through the whole policing issue and how important it is to stay the course regarding the reforms of the policing structures that have meant more Catholics in the Police Service of Northern Ireland and a much better relationship between the PSNI and the public. He made the point that the flow of information to the police that is needed following these killings is facilitated by the reformed structures and how important it is that there is a measured response by the PSNI . On a related note I was in Stormont during the week with colleagues from the European Affairs Committee to give evidence to the Committee for the Office of the First Minister and deputy First Minister about the work of our Committee in the Oireachtas. This was the second time we had met the committee, they previously visited us in Leinster House. These relationships between politicians from the Republic and those of all traditions in Northern Ireland are now in place and continuing to build on those relationships and the areas we can cooperate on is also very important, in terms of the united front on working within the Good Friday Agreement.

      Joanna

    • Deaglán says:

      I really think an excessive security response will be counterproductive. The one thing these groups lack is a popular base. A few rough seaches in Catholic housing estates could start to change that.

    • La Verita says:

      It’s very interesting how none of you are actually aware of the British actually infiltrating the IRA. I mean Adams’s entire circle (Donaldson, etc) have been shown to be MI5 and yet, you seem to think that somehow he is not tarnished. (ha ha ha, wake up, man).

      In fact De Valera was a Freemason, which would imply that he too was in the hands of the Brits, so it would seem to point to the fact that the “movement” was controlled by The Crown all the way through.

      What I am saying is: people, you are being manipulated, played, call it what you will. Join the dots, this is an area where The Crown makes huge revenue from drugs, it’s an industry, drugs, weapons, war….and you are all victims, irregardless of sectarian sympathies..


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