If you want a good laugh, it’s sometimes worth listening to Stephen Nolan, especially around 10.30 a.m., when Gerry Anderson comes on and says outrageous things about him. This morning, though, Nolan was less laughable than lamentable.
He had a man called Damian on the line, talking about last night’s bomb outside Newry court-house, presumably left by dissident republicans. Other callers had labeled those who left the bomb ‘criminals’; Damian disagreed. Whether it was dissident republicans or the IRA or the UVF or the UFF, he said, there was no point in trying to simply criminalise these people, because they were acting out of political motives.
Nolan’s response was to tell Damian that his analysis would be found deeply depressing by the majority of people in Northern Ireland. The implication was that Damian’s analysis was wrong, dissident republicans were simply criminals, and to suggest they had any political thinking behind their actions was, well, kind of subversive.
I was a poor Latin student at school but I do remember one sentence from Caesar’s Gallic Wars: 'Fere libenter homines id quod volunt credunt' - Men readily believe that which they desire. We might wish that dissident republicans were a collection of mindless psychopaths. Alas they clearly aren’t, which makes the Newry attack all the more challenging. Meanwhile, when people hide behind clichés to avoid the truth and Stephen eggs them on, they and he do a grave disservice to the rest of us.