11 May 2006 Edition
The brutal murder of young Michael McIlveen in Ballymena is just the latest in a long and unbroken line of such attacks. Victims of these attacks don't fit in to the narrative the media seek to impose on the six Counties and are thus ignored. Similarly the political establishment have no interest in confronting this scourge. Michael McDowell found time to meet Willie Frazier but on two occasions when victims of collusion and loyalist violence visited Leinster House he declined to meet them. For McDowell and his ilk there is simply no percentage in representing the victim of British/unionist violence. We all know it would be a totally different story had nationalists or republicans had been linked to such a crime.
The MP for the area has condemned the killing, however, this is a man that regularly refers to the pope as the anti Christ. His party refuse to talk to Sinn Féin who represent the majority of the nationalist community. What kind of example is this to his constituents. Indeed Ian Paisley has played a, over the years, a big role in the creation of conditions that foster the sickening and brutal sectarianism behind this murder.
This issue has been ignored for long enough. It is high time for those with responsibility to face up to the facts.
I thought Colm Bhreatnach's contribution to last week's paper was certainly of interest and I hope readers gave it some thought even if its basic premise, that coalition with the right is never justified in any circumstances is more than a little naïve. Coalition with the extreme right is not an optional added extra in the Good Friday Agreement, but a basic requirement of power-sharing as part of a process of conflict resolution. The position of the Campaign for an Independent Left on the Good Friday Agreement, on the issue of national sovereignty for that matter, seems to be missing. But perhaps, like many an ultra-left group in the South of Ireland, the socialism of the Campaign for an Independent Left stops at the border. What would Connolly have thought?
If there is one argument that should be taken from Colm Bhreatnach's article last week it is that, "It is not simply a question of being a party of protest or of power, but recognising that power does not solely or even primarily lie in Leinster House or Stormont". For republicans facing into a possible Dáil coalition debate at this election or the next one, it is never anything less than vital that we understand the distinctions between electoral and political strength. Arguably, Sinn Féin is strong, and growing stronger, in terms of electoral strength, but our political strength, our ability to mobilise people onto the streets, to radicalise our communities, to prosecute and succeed in campaigns and to build alliances with progressive left wing groups is lagging behind.
I think Mr Bhreatnach underestimates the ability of Leinster House to deliver some change, to shape the political context in which the more important political struggles outside of the Dáil can take place, but his article is a useful and thoughtful contribution to the development of the Irish left and to be welcomed.
The threat from the Garda Representative Association to become involved in politics by targeting key constituencies represents a dire threat to democracy. If this threat is carried out or indeed if it is successful and the reserve falls then a frightening precedent will have been set. Make no mistake about it this is a challenge to a democratically elected government by the security services.
The Gardaí are a force which have operated in a climate of impunity. Successive justice ministers, including the present one, have allowed scandal after scandal to go unchecked. This might have seemed like a good idea during the conflict in the North but clearly it has now come back to haunt them. That the Gardaí now feel confident to make such threats gives you an idea of how much they feel untouchable.
It is worth noting here that the reason they are so much opposed to a reserve force are firmly routed in the corrupt nature of that force. If civilians were to get an insight into what goes on in Garda stations around the country there would be uproar. If they succeed in this challenge then you can forget the notion of Gardaí accountability. They will be a force beyond democratic control.