Fintan O’Toole: Gangsters who call themselves the New IRA are calcified cliché
Sinn Féin no longer accepts the legitimacy of crypto-fascist ‘republicanism’, but it won’t disavow it either
Dissident republicans are neither. The idea of dissidence is to oppose and contest received ideas, to challenge calcified cliches. The gangsters who call themselves the New IRA and their groupies in Saoradh are nothing but calcified cliché. They endlessly recycle dead platitudes and poses. They are military re-enactors with real bullets, museum dummies with live bombs. And republicanism is a philosophical tradition about which they have no clue, a way of thinking about a democracy in which, as Philip Pettit has put it, we can look one another in the eye without reason for fear or deference. Fear and deference are what these bullies seek to create, first in their own enclaves and then for the rest of us.
In fact, these people are not even, properly speaking, Irish nationalists. The core demand of Irish nationalism has always been self-determination for the Irish people as a whole. The Irish people as a whole, North and South, had that act of self-determination on May 22nd, 1998, when we voted simultaneously on whether (in effect) to accept the Belfast (Good Friday) Agreement. It was supported by 71 per cent north of the Border and 94 per cent in the South. On an island-wide basis, 86 per cent of voters supported the agreement. That is and remains the emphatic will of the people who share this island. The so-called dissidents are in revolt, not against “the forces of crown”, but against the self-determination of the Irish people.