Apologies for delay in posting this column which appeared in the Herald just before Christmas (on December 18th)
THE people of Belfast were forced to endure a trip back in time to the bad old days last Friday – courtesy of yet another dissident republican group.
In placing a bomb in one of the city’s busiest areas, this latest dissident collective showed a terrifying disregard for lives of the people in whose name they claim to fight.
Ironically, they attempted their vicious deed just two days before the 20th anniversary of the Downing Street Declaration, the landmark joint statement from the then Taoiseach, Albert Reynolds and British Prime Minister John Major that set the course for the 1998 Good Friday Agreement.
This emergence of yet another reckless dissident grouping shows that some people on this island have still not grasped that terrorism and paramilitarism is doomed to fail.
Or maybe they do realise this. Maybe their attempted campaign of terrorism is not designed to achieve anything other than simply having a campaign of terrorism, masking their attachment to violence and intimidation with crude and inappropriate historical references.
Following last Friday’s incident Minister for Defence Alan Shatter warned of the dangers of historical references and the trap of inadvertently legitimising the claims of this latest dissident group, which seeks to refer to itself as ‘Óglaigh
He reminded us that “Óglaigh na hÉireann” is the name of the Irish Defence Forces, a source of great prideto this State, saying: “No media outlet should facilitate it’s misappropriation by individuals intent on perpetrating murder and causing mayhem”.
I applaud Minister Shatter for echoing what one of his predecessors attempted to do in late 2005.
Back then I was Special Adviser to then Minister for Defence Willie O’Dea. In early November 2005 O’Dea initiated a correspondence with Gerry Adams demanding that Sinn Féin stop misusing the name “Óglaigh na hÉireann” by associating it with the Provisional IRA on badges and t-shirts for sale online.
I say ‘correspondence’ though in reality it was a monologue. While Mr Adams and the then SF party leader in the Dáil Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin did acknowledge the letters sent to them in November and December 2005 and again in February 2006 they failed to make any substantive response to the issues raised.
As both O’Dea stated back in 2005 and Minister Shatter echoed this week: there is only one Óglaigh na hÉireann – it is the Irish Defence Forces.
Though some of the offending items were quietly removed from their website, not all were and the Shinners continue to cash in on our history to fill the party’s already bulging coffers.
Before any Shinner apologist pops up to remind me that they are more hated and loathed by dissidents than others, I readily acknowledge that. But that is no excuse. It is time for Mr Adams to now do what should have done in 1998, 2005 and 2008 – acknowledge there is only one Óglaigh na hÉireann and stop the waffling, even if it costs Sinn Fein some money.