Men with Guns Cannot Shatter Democracy. Bad Politicians Can; A Powerful Warning That Our Freedoms Are in Danger - and That Our Self-Serving Representatives Are Stoking the Fire

Daily Mail (London), November 4, 2010 | Go to article overview

Men with Guns Cannot Shatter Democracy. Bad Politicians Can; A Powerful Warning That Our Freedoms Are in Danger - and That Our Self-Serving Representatives Are Stoking the Fire


Byline: by John Crown Professor of Oncology at St Vincent's Hospital

THE actions of the city councillor who threw paint over Mary Harney this week I unequivocally condemn. Although there is considerable, understandable and appropriate anger at our current Government, at its policies, and at the actions of many of its individual members, our democracy provides appropriate forums both for choosing our leaders, and for expressing legitimate political protest.

Politically inspired assaults, tarrings and featherings, Kristallnacht-style window shatterings and kneecappings should have no place in a tolerant, modern, liberal democracy.

The distaste that many citizens experienced at the paint attack, grounded as it was in a general rejection of violent action against democratically elected political opponents, will be compounded by a cursory analysis of the political provenance of the organisations that Miss Harney's alleged assailant represents.

Legitimacy

Councillor Minihan, of the Eirigi Party and formerly of Sinn Fein, has decided to associate herself with a political tradition which for most of its history subordinated the will of the Irish people, as expressed in the ballot box, to the will of itself.

Thus for most of the 20th century Violent Irish Nationalism declined to accept the legitimacy of most of the 30 democratically elected Dails (Dails 1-2 and 28-30 were apparently okay, the rest were illegitimate partitionist pseudodemocracies), preferring to believe the true government of Ireland was the so-called Army Council of the so-called Irish Republican Army, whose seven members in turn were authorised to govern Ireland not by the electorate, but from the personal benediction of the survivors of the second Dail.

Latterly, this was a single man, nonagenarian Thomas Maguire. This unique authorisation in turn gave the IRA the authority to prosecute a 'war' against all of the democratically elected governments of these islands, in the name of the very people whose very democratic wishes they chose to ignore. This war cost 3,500 men, women and children, mostly Irish, their lives.

The absurdity of this position is clearer to most sentient people now than it once was, and in the latest of the periodic outbursts of collective midlife crises of identity that Violent Nationalists have been prone to for the last 90 years or so, Messrs Adams, McGuinness, Ferris et al, undertook a mass ritual Reverend Moon-style conversion to the path of democracy since the Nineties.

Thank God they did.

Sadly, some true believers were left behind, clinging to the old, old faith like millenarianists wondering why the world didn't end at the turn of New Year's Eve 1,000AD or 2,000AD.

Do the residual Violent Irish Nationalists, the Anarchists and Fascists pose an existential threat to our democratic system of government at this time of recession?

Leading commentators have recently offered the opinion that civic insurrection was a distinct possibility here. Indeed one business editor seemed to regret that it had not yet happened.

Perhaps these predictions of a return to jackboots on cobblestoned streets were inspired by the Weimar mood music played by our opposition politicians, after they trudged Chamberlain-like from the Department of Finance. Perhaps it was the images of French pension rioters in full flow. Qui sait?

While there is no doubt that economic crises are times of vulnerability for fragile democracies, ours is in fact a very stable democracy, one which weathered a Civil War, the Great Depression and the Emergency. It can likely survive the dreadful social consequences of economic downtown.

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Men with Guns Cannot Shatter Democracy. Bad Politicians Can; A Powerful Warning That Our Freedoms Are in Danger - and That Our Self-Serving Representatives Are Stoking the Fire
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