Posted By: June 07, 2014

Denis Bradley. Irish News ( Belfast). Friday, June 6, 2014
I REMEMBER the Everglades being built.

I might even have been invited to some of the early functions that happened in the
hotel. I remember the first manager and a lot of the staff and especially Peter
Brady who seemed to organise everything so that the manager could spend time
debating the pressing issues of the day with the great and good of Derry. Those were
the years when the Everglades was one if not the only functioning hotel in Derry and
the police had more to think about than 'closing time', so the talk often drifted
into the early hours of the morning. Sometimes the debates got hot and heavy. It was
on such a night I argued that the IRA had to be taken into the political
discussions, that there couldn't be a solution without engaging the Provos. I
suppose I remember it because a well- known politician got very angry and described
me as a Provo priest.

Forty or so years later one of the republican dissident groups puts a firebomb into
the Everglades. A violent statement that they haven't gone away or a protest against
a policing recruitment event in the hotel or an assertion that the entry of some of
their supporters into politics doesn't imply the ending of the armed struggle - you
can pick one or all of those reasons.

Over the past 15 years I have argued unsuccessfully in high places that governments
have to talk to the dissidents just as they onetime talked to the Provos, if for no
other reason than to convince them that the world and politics has moved so far and
so fast that violent Irish republicanism looks antediluvian, which is a big word to
describe something that had its place and its time before Noah built his ark.

Recently I read the ages of some of the dissidents who have been jailed or arrested
on both sides of the border. Some were of a vintage who would never take shelter in
the ark but some were only youngsters who haven't the experience to realise that the
days of the Provos are long gone and the dissidents don't have the support, the
structure or the climate to recreate those days. But they are not too young to
realise that the whole of western society is in political flux and the islands of
Britain and Ireland are caught up in that whirlpool more than most. The mutation
that is challenging the status quo is bigger and more complex than the Anglo/Irish
question but it can't be denied that the old chestnut is there in the mix. If these
youngsters are prepared to kill and put a fire bomb in the Everglades then they
should also have enough political savvy to realise that the occasional killing and
firebombing pales in comparison to the scottish referendum which is the most
transformative constitutional phenomenon in 200 years. Even if the answer to
Scottish independence is 'no', the internal relationships of the Union will never be
quite the same. The youngsters and maybe even the not so young among them should
have enough interest in politics to see that a United Ireland is now reduced to a
numbers game, the pros and the cons counting heads and votes at every election to
judge the balance of power between Nationalism and Unionism and estimating when the
shift in power will happen. They might even be honest enough to admit the
significance of a few of their cheerleaders sticking their toe in the political
waters and getting elected.

Politics and violence (with the exception of governments) are like water and oil.
You might put them in the same tank but, as the Provos discovered, they just don't
mix. An armalite in one hand and a ballot paper in the other is a good battle-cry
but a lousy political strategy. The reality is that there was never a worst time for
a violent campaign. An armed struggle is completely out of synch, out of fashion and
out of impact on these islands. Leaving aside the morality, the challenge to the
young men and women who have already joined up or are thinking of doing so, is to
realise that the firebomb in the Everglades might well affect the number of tourists
coming to Derry and thus destroy a few local jobs but its impact on the body
politics is nil - zilch, zero. Politics has moved on. The dissidents need to do the