They haven’t gone away, you know, no matter how much you’d like them to.
And as long as they keep getting headlines, they’re not likely to.
Today brought a statement – fittingly recorded in a graveyard – from the Real IRA. But rather than bury their failed, tired rhetoric, the last nuts in the fruitcake of physical force Republicanism once again aired their views that policemen are legitimate targets and that the Queen is a war criminal.
It would have been quaint, had they not recently succeeded in murdering a young Catholic man recently.
Their continued existence is not surprising- what is staggering is that, in this day and age, a handful of crackpots making threats and calling the Queen a war criminal is still considered news by editors around the world.
What other outfit, numbering a few dozen at the hard core centre, could demand such valuable publicity? None. No-one else would be taken seriously. And rightly so.
There is no doubt that the Real IRA have some dangerous men in their ranks, but they are an awful lot less than the media would have you believe. They won’t be murdering the Queen when she comes to visit, for a start.
The threat they pose may be significant, but their ability to execute on a small scale. Such is life as a fringe terrorist organisation.
But that matters not to RTE, or Yahoo! or many of the other news carriers. They bang the big drum, putting these guys front-row and centre on their website, as if they represented something that any sane person actually believes in any more.
Now don’t get me wrong – I’ve spent much of the first half of this year thinking and reading abut the hunger strikes of thirty years ago, and trying to put them in the context of the Ireland that has developed since those young men died.
What would Bobby Sands have made of the banking crisis, I wonder?
I’m as big a Republican as the next man, and I would hope that at some time in my lifetime the island of Ireland will be united. But I’m well aware that it will not happen without consent.
And if it does happen through violence, I want no part of it.
But instead, the news organisations would rather trumpet the view of the handful that say we have taken the wrong path, and in doing so, they lend some legitimacy to the cause.
But maybe the news organisations giving the story top billing doesn’t matter.
Maybe we have moved on from where allowing such views to be aired risked recruiting new followers for them.
Maybe we have come so far from the violence that it is now obvious that it is no longer the way to go.
If we have, it shouldn’t be long before the balaclaved man in the graveyard is standing there talking to himself.