Risk of return to violence remains if politics is seen not to work - Hayes


JOHN HEWITT SUMMER SCHOOL:THERE IS always the risk of a return to violence in Northern Ireland if politics is seen not to be working, Dr Maurice Hayes told the 21st John Hewitt Summer School in Armagh city yesterday evening.

Dr Hayes, a former senior Northern Ireland civil servant and member of the Patten commission on policing, sounded his warning against the backdrop of the current stand-off between the DUP and Sinn Féin.

"No one foresees the return of the bad days of the bomb and bullet and the tit-for-tat killing," he said.

"But there is always the risk of the re-emergence of a cyclical pattern as a generation of young people who have not experienced the actuality, the horror and the cost of violence, react against the ineffectiveness of politics and politicians, their predecessors having been persuaded to turn away from violence on the promise that politics could deliver," said Dr Hayes.

He adverted to how the Northern Executive has not met for over a month as Sinn Féin and the DUP remain deadlocked. Hardly a "great advertisement for democratic politics", he said.

In his lecture on the peace process, A Game of Two Halves, Dr Hayes more generally - in a reference to the violence and the more than 3,700 deaths - said that "one thing that should not be allowed is the glorification in song or story of what was mean and nasty and dirty".

Earlier yesterday the former mayor of Portlaoise, Rotimi Adebari, in a discussion panel, recalled when he discovered Ireland had changed for ever.

He described how as a Nigerian living in Portlaoise in 2000 his young son was the only black child in his primary school. Two years later there were 17 nationalities attending the school. Clicking his fingers, he said such diversification "happened just like that".

Mr Adebari then recounted how, realising he had an important and positive role to play in that change, he had he ended up as an Independent councillor and then mayor of Portlaoise.

He recalled, too, the campaigning day when he realised he might take a seat - when the director of elections of another party, and his wife, treated him to tea and mused that perhaps he might like to join that party, which Mr Adebari refused to name.

Irish Timesforeign affairs correspondent Mary Fitzgerald spoke of the error of "conflating Islam with terrorism". She said she could not emphasise strongly enough how diverse and important Islam was in cultural and political terms.