Northern Ireland

Denis Bradley: Only Irish government can politically challenge dissidents

Former Policing Board vice-chairman, Denis Bradley believes the dissident republican threat can only be addressed politically by the Irish government rather than their British counterparts.

Mr Bradley, who served as policing vice-chairman from 2001 to 2006, said he was saddened by Wednesday’s attempted murder of PSNI detective, John Caldwell. He believed the attack was carried out merely to “keep alive” the dissident campaign.

“They will not achieve militarily but what it does is keeps the flame alive, it’s about keeping the flame alive. It has no reality by the way. It has no political reality, it has no social reality, it has no spiritual reality. It has no reality except inside the people’s heads,” he said.

Mr Bradley said the dissident republican movement was a “fundamentalist” one whose actions were now an obstacle to their actual aim of a united Ireland.

And he that if that issue was not being discussed by the New IRA and other groups, they were “even more fundamentalist” than he thought. He told The Irish News that if dissidents were not discussing the rationale for their actions, they were “inept” and this posed a major problem for society.

However, he believed the issues raised by dissident republican “fundamentalism” could not be overcome by the British government.

“How does society deal with it? There’s a major question for the Irish government because the British are the targets; the British are the (dissidents’) enemy. Get Britain out of Ireland, we all know that one. So what’s the Irish government doing in response to that. Where is Ireland in this, the voice of Ireland that speaks or doesn’t speak to or engage with dissidence, with this fundamentalism; that surely has to be the Irish government.”

Mr Bradley, who is also an Irish News columnist, said the Dublin government has engaged with some sections of society in the North but has failed to go to, what he described as, the “hard places”.

“What I mean by the hard places. They go to Queen’s, the go to universities, the speak to journalists and news people but that’s not the hard places; that’s just reportage. Do they go to the Creggans; do they go to the Omaghs; do they go to the Crossmaglens or east Belfast and do they go there often enough and do they go there high-profile enough,” he said.

It was not enough to send civil servants or “emissaries” to such places. Mr Bradley said the Irish government must engage directly to convince people that there were alternatives to the dissident republican movement.