Life

Jake O'Kane: The truth is that violence achieves only pain, death and destruction

Many proponents of social unrest within unionism argue that they find it impossible to condemn violence within their community when similar violence proved so successful for republicans. Our recent history, however, proves the exact opposite

Police in Dungiven earlier this week after an incendiary bomb was planted at the car of an officer who is the mother of a young child. Dissident republicans have been blamed for the attack. Picture by Niall Carson/PA
Jake O'Kane

WELL, it was bound to happen. Actually, I’m surprised it’s taken this long. For the first time, my editor cut a paragraph from my column last week.

I wasn’t annoyed as it was done for my own good. You see, I suffered a rush of blood when writing about the ongoing rioting – I was definitely too candid in what I wrote.

Considering the litigious predilections of our political class, I’m lucky it was cut. The last thing I want is to end up in court… unless, of course, it happens to involve a paternity case when I’m 80.

As trouble around the Protocol continues, I think it would be useful to challenge a false narrative which seems to be gaining some traction.

Many proponents of social unrest within unionism argue that they find it impossible to condemn violence within their community when similar violence proved so successful for republicans.

Our recent history, however, proves the exact opposite. Violent republicanism operated for over 30 years; during that time, hundreds of their number were killed and thousands more spent untold years imprisoned. The end result is Sinn Féin now share power in Stormont, and a united Ireland is still an aspiration, hardly a success.

It wasn’t until the Good Friday Agreement, the decommissioning of weapons and peace, that their political fortunes changed, resulting in them becoming not only the second largest party here but also a growing political force across the island. The evidence is clear: violence didn’t work then, and certainly won’t work now, nor in the future.

One definition of insanity is doing the same thing, time after time, and expecting a different result. This is something rioting loyalists and bomb-planting republicans should ponder as they appear trapped in a time warp which will result in nothing but more futile deaths and wanton destruction.

* * *

AS SOMEONE who spends an inordinate amount of time criticising ‘them uns’ on the hill, it’s a relief to find any occasion when I can say something positive about the place. The debate during the week to ban ‘conversion therapy’ – a ridiculous process which claims to ‘convert’ homosexuals into heterosexuals – ended, for once, with the right result.

The motion to bring legislation to make this practice illegal was tabled by Doug Beattie of the Ulster Unionist Party, who made an impassioned and eloquent speech encapsulating the attitude of most right-thinking people. For once the assembly spoke with one voice in its opposition to the practice, with the only dissent coming via Jim Allister and a failed amendment from the DUP. For a few moments watching the debate, it felt as though the Northern Ireland Assembly had finally dipped a toe into the 21st century.

* * *

I’VE never been a soccer fan – I don’t watch the sport nor know much about it, but I won’t let that stop me throwing in my tuppence worth about the proposed ‘super league’, which came and went within a matter of days.

A major criticism of the idea was that the greed of a few billionaire club owners risked turning a working-class sport elitist. I’m not sure how working-class a sport can be when a season ticket for one of the Premier League teams can cost up to £1,000.

I was criticised for calling it ‘soccer’, with some aficionados pointing out it’s called ‘football’ here and only called ‘soccer’ in America. I explained the only football I ever played had Gaelic in front of it, so, it will always be called soccer as far as I’m concerned.

For my generation growing up in a nationalist area of Belfast, competitive soccer wasn’t an option – ‘our’ sport was Gaelic football, which you played if you lacked the skill to play hurling.

Not that I was proficient in either. I was too short and could neither jump nor run as I was also training as a powerlifter at the time and weighed over 15 stone. Undeterred, my enthusiastic Gaelic coach decided I’d fare best as a full back, instructing me to stop any opposition player who came near our goal. I carried out his orders with such enthusiasm it was a rare occurrence I remained on the field until the end of a game.

* * *

THE bullies who decided to stick Jamie Bryson atop a bin during the week should be ashamed of themselves. To paraphrase the late Patrick Swayze, nobody puts baby in the corner, nor Jamie on a bin.

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