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Monday, August 09, 2004
A lesson unlearned ... so far

Harry's Place reports on an attempt none-too-subtle in its language and logo to stop Gay Pride Parades marching through the streets of Belfast. But I suspect they don't know the politics of Northern Ireland very well if they think lists of statistics and fearsome logos are the way to achieve it.

As Sinn Fein/IRA has shown, if you are faced with a group of Ulster people who want only to march to celebrate their liberation, the way to stop them is perfectly simple. Get a sizeable group of hooligans and louts, throw some petrol bombs and start a riot. Then repeat the next year, and the next. Before long, every responsible commentator and politician in the world will be describing your opponents' marches as 'provocative', calling on the events to be banned, and will ensure the Police Service of Northern Ireland places enormous barriers of barbed wire in their way to stop the march being completed.

It is easy, and morally right, to express disgust at the tactics of Fathers for Justice and - by many factors worse - the various animal rights groups now waging their unpleasant war on medical science. But it is also worth noting that the way this government deals with those who use violence and distruption gives them every incentive to use these tactics. We can, thank God, rely on pro-family groups not to adopt the riotous tactics described above, which have proved so successful. But one shouldn't in a democracy have to rely on anyone not using violence. The law should be enough of a presence that groups' goodwill is not the deciding factor. The continuing appeasement of the men of violence in that part of the United Kingdom may be easily forgotten or pushed to the back of the mind, but I suspect it may come back to haunt us all one day, when those many individuals and groups willing to use violence for their cause have lost any belief in our resolve, and have every reason to believe that they can win, if only they keep the the fight going long enough. The animal rights fanatics may only be the beginning.

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