The activities of so-called Republicans in Cork over the last couple of weeks belittle everything that has been done to prevent this country from sliding into civil war and bitterness in the past 50 years. They pour scorn on the efforts of peacemakers, both in Northern Ireland and here in the Republic, and on the grief of the bereaved.
Many people in the Republic simply are not interested in Northern Ireland. But, as I heard a seasoned Northern correspondent point out on the radio recently, what we’ve all forgotten is that these are peoples’ lives we are talking about.
It’s not about committees or satisfying the egos of prima donna politicians; it’s about human life. It’s about children who have lost their fathers and mothers and brothers and sisters. It’s about mothers who have buried their children for no reason other than someone else’s hatred. And it’s about making sure that those crimes – not just against law, but against humanity – are not repeated.
Some people in the Republic are interested. The former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern received universal praise for his work on the North. Minister for Foreign Affairs and Cork TD Micheál Martin is interested in the North, and has spent many days there in recent weeks trying to hammer out a deal on making sure that political parties previously involved in blowing up police officers can now work to help them create a workable, normal justice and policing system. That’s no small task, and while Minister Martin may be the only link to Cork many people can see in the Northern talks, he is not.
The activities of so-called ‘Republicans’ in Cork over the past number of months are troubling, but the lack of public outcry about them is even more worrying.
When the 32 County Sovereignty Movement (which has a blog, on which it posts ‘Beir Buas’ and is allegedly the political wing of the Real IRA) distributed leaflets threatening to murder drug dealers during the summer, there was a bit of a media scuffle. People talked about it for a while, and it died down.
When Gerard ‘Topper’ Staunton was killed in Wilton, there was some disquiet. Gangland-style murders are unusual in Cork. But then it was revealed that he was ‘known to the Gardaí’ and the murmurs died down, and people got on with their lives. You can be sure his family didn’t.
Whatever Mr Staunton’s crimes, we do not have capital punishment in this country; nobody is allowed to take a human life.
The French revolutionary values of Republicanism, from which our Republican movement grew, involved liberty, equality and fraternity. Not one of those words implies that murder, vigilantism and execution are permitted by simply putting the word Republican in the title of whatever organisation or movement you purport to represent.
Fresh threats against drug dealing ‘scumbags’ have been met with a particularly odious type of bravado by many members of the public. Somebody commented on our own website that Mr Staunton ‘got what he deserved’ and web forums have hosted equally stupid and dangerous sentiments expressed by people who have no idea what it would be like to live in a vigilante state.
It is hoped that the Garda investigation into the criminal activities of the 32 County Sovereignty Movement in Cork is productive. And that the people of Cork will see sense and refuse to allow their city and county to be tainted by this evil.