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Battle of Words

Mark Devenport | 10:59 UK time, Thursday, 15 July 2010

Sticks and stones hurt PSNI bones. But can words do anything to blunt the appeal of the dissidents to nationalist youths?

Yesterday's Stormont Castle news conference saw no repeat of Martin McGuinness's blistering verbal assault on the dissidents as "traitors to the people of Ireland". Maybe that was because the rain dampened everyone's rhetorical ardour.

However the Irish Foreign Affairs Minister Micheál Martin has launched a scathing attack on the dissidents in this lengthy statement on the North Belfast riots.

Minister Martin argues that those encouraging young people to engage in disorder are living in the hope that some of the youths will get seriously hurt. "Dreadful as it is to contemplate" the minister says "they are actually hoping that one or more of the rioters will be killed or maimed in their conflict with the police so that a new generation of martyrs for the cause will inspire others to follow. They are also hoping by their actions to provoke a violent reaction from the protestant community so that communities will once again look to paramilitaries for protection."

And in a similar line of logic to the Deputy First Minister's, Micheál Martin challenges the dissidents' nationalist credentials: "right now, the biggest threat to Irish unity is not the British, or the Orange Order, but those wannabe republicans who think that they can bomb and shoot their way there......Let nobody be fooled, these so-called "dissident" republicans are unqualified partitionists. Nobody who believes in the Republic should have anything to do with them."

No doubt the minister's targets will insist they will take no lectures from "26 county" political leaders. So is he howling at the moon? Or can this battle of words have an incremental impact?


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