Posted By: December 21, 2013

Patrick Murphy. Irish News (Belfast). Saturday, December 21, 2013
THERE is something inconsistent and maybe even a bit dishonest about our
politicians' condemnation of current republican violence. As they grapple with
 the conceptual rigors of designing a new flag (how about a single piece of cloth with a different flag on each side?) their comments reflect an intellectual
 laziness, which threatens to undermine the validity of their condemnation This is not to suggest that the violence is somehow right. It is not, particularly
 since it is largely anti-civilian and therefore constitutes terrorism. But the reasoning behind the current condemnation is often flawed. Any aspiring bomber
 could comfortably argue against it. Three broad reasons are offered in support of condemnation: all violence is wrong; current violence has no support and will not work (which suggests that if it had support, it would work and would therefore not be wrong) and that anti-good Friday Agreement (GFA) republicans 
should adopt democratic means to achieve their
aims. All three reasons are open to challenge - but responsibility for the 
violence still lies with the bombers All violence is not wrong. If it is, why did
 UTV broadcast an awards event this week, attended by David Cameron,
 praising the British army in Afghanistan? Ah, you
say, that's different. This means that there are two types of violence: good and
bad. British violence is inevitably good, because it mainly involves killing
terrorists abroad. (For Britain, terrorists are those who tell the British to go
home.) British forces have killed an estimated 500 civilians in Afghanistan.
 Local politicians have not condemned this violence, even though we are part of the United Kingdom. Britain used to send armies abroad but they can now kill foreigners by operating bomb-carrying drones from a base in Lincolnshire
 imperialism by remote
control. (That is "good" violence because these days the morality of violence is
directly proportionate to the level of technological sophistication used to carry it

If you remain unconvinced, let us try a different approach. Is violence justified to
establish democracy? (Debating that should keep you occupied over Christmas.
Philosophy is so much better than watching the queen's speech.) Democrats will
presumably answer yes, depending on the details of a situation. So not all violence
is wrong. The argument that physical force republicans have no support is weak. They
would win few votes in an election, but neither did Sinn Fein until it supported
peace. You could not bomb the center of Belfast without support, especially with the
current intensity of electronic surveillance. Their support is fuelled by blind
tradition, contempt for Sinn Fein and the failure of Stormont to govern.
 Politicians might like to address the third one. The no-support argument
 implies that if they had support, their violence would somehow be good, presumably on the basis that popularity beats morality. The News of the World used that argument for a long time.
It is wrong. The third reason suggests that a united Ireland can be achieved by
democratic means. But the GFA allows for a border poll only within Northern
 Ireland, which was specifically created to ensure an artificial unionist majority. So the poll is confined to a gerrymandered constituency. Prior to the GFA it
 could be argued that the gerrymandering had been undemocratically enforced by the British government. But electoral support for the GFA meant that what
 had previously been
undemocratic became democratic. So we democratically agreed that the
 unionist veto could prevent a democratic path to a united Ireland. (Anyone 
who argues for democratic means should be asked to define democracy.) One 
argument against republican violence which is less open to challenge is that it generates sectarian division among ordinary people. But our politicians cannot 
condemn sectarianism -where would they be without it? The Haass talks are another stage in enshrining their sectarianism by asking those who are part of the problem to administer it.
This allows people to be fed on a diet of flags, while 43 per cent of children in
west Belfast are in poverty. (Cheer up, children, Santa is working on a
new flag.)

Republicans in particular might mention Wolfe Tone's suggestion that British
influence in Ireland is maintained by sectarianism. Violence entrenches that
sectarianism, so every act of violence supports Britain's presence here.
 (Look at where sectarian violence brought the Provisional IRA.) So the most powerful argument against violence would appear to be Republicanism. None of 
those claiming to be republicans have made it. As long as condemnation
becomes a substitute for political honesty, the bombers will have enough
oxygen for survival. We can best condemn others when we have looked more
 critically at ourselves.