IT is a strange term ‘dissident’. Type it into the Microsoft Word dictionary and reference sources and words pop up like dissenter, rebel, protester, or unorthodox.
Words that don’t crop up include ‘low-life’, ‘scumbag’, ‘murderous’ or ‘dinosaur’.
Yet, such words have been bandied about when references are made to the so-called dissident republicans – along with ‘misguided’ and ‘enemies of Ireland’.
Now apparently, such dissidents are the subject of talks. So says the deputy First Minister. Martin claims that the government have taken the old BT ad tag line ‘It’s good to talk’ to heart and have opened lines of communication with dissident groups.
Of course, politicians north and south have been huffing and bluffing that such talks are not and indeed should not take place.
At this point armchair reviewers of Norn Iron’s chequered history should begin taking notes.
After all, when John Major was calling the Provos all the names of the day, meetings were underway with the ‘RA. And when any shade of politician was busy denying talks with loyalist terrorists, you could be sure that their comrades not in arms were talking to those with arms.
As Churchill [the prime minister] said: “jaw, jaw better than war, war”....so do such talks take place? As Churchill [the nodding dog of TV ad insurance fame] says: “Oh yes!”
But therein lies the rub. Talks must take place if there is to be an end to violence. But at the same time violence is being wrought upon men and women across Northern Ireland. One cannot but help notice that there may be a connection between a recent upsurge of dissident attacks and the possibility of talks. Are these sad, relics of the past trying to improve their bargaining hand?
If they are, to what end? Will they, like some fabled John Le Carré spy ‘Come in from the cold’? Or are they holding out for a decent deal and pay-off?
For all the comments on talk shows and waffle from ministers, it will all in the end come down to two factors: what price a human life and whether the so-called dissidents will ever look at the calendar and notice that this is the 21st Century and not some misty eyed poorly remembered distant past.
As one local songwriter said: “Ignorance kills Irishmen as surely as if we fired the gun.”