'WE HAVE embraced a murder conspiracy to ourselves," said Gerard Colleran, editor of the Irish Daily Star, on last Monday's Questions & Answers.
Well said, Ger. Well, bleakly and pithily said. That's what we've done to buy peace, and now our democracy is under serious threat.
Owing to the police chiefs North and South, the British and Irish prime ministers and other politicians, and now the International Monitoring Commission (IMC), having unacceptably told the truth about the latest criminal activities of the IRA, we've seen the bearded barbarian standing at the gates of the Dail challenging the Taoiseach of our sovereign nation "to shut up or put up".
Martin McGuinness - his chief co-conspirator - has been shouting defiance on television North and South at democratic politicians. They are angry, they and their cohorts keep telling us: angry, enraged, incensed, furious, outraged, resentful, insulted and provoked.
Actually, if you read their words carefully in An Phoblacht/Republican News (which clearly keeps a thesaurus in the office) and elsewhere, you will know that republican spokesmen are also (if you have a thesaurus yourself) bitter, acrimonious, rancorous, virulent and full of hate, not to speak of being full of cant, hogwash, mendacity, duplicity, hypocrisy, pretence, trickery and treachery.
If the British Army in the First World War were lions led by donkeys, republican foot-soldiers are donkeys led by liars.
So what do the liars plan for the donkeys? Send them back to slaughtering and being slaughtered in a hopeless cause? Keep them occupied with robbing and mutilating and spying? Urge them to stay calm, go straight and learn to be democrats?
Well, for the moment there's a kind of fusion strategy: try simultaneously to frighten the security services and politicians and give hope to the bellicose by using menacing language; let the lower-profile criminality and brutality continue; but in the name of democracy, get the donkeys out on to the streets to accelerate the process of destabilising Ireland.
"Sinn Fein is up for the fight" was the An Phoblacht headline last week, announcing a series of rallies as part of a campaign of "democratic resistance" to the crisis in the peace process engineered by those who "are afraid of our growing electoral strength".
And who's the inspiriting democrat behind this? Why, Gerry Kelly, North Belfast Assembly member, whose lies go down a treat with the donkeys because of his exploits as a bomber, lifer and prison escapee.
He may be a bit intellectually challenged, but no one can dispute that Kelly is a by-word for audacity and ruthlessness, so the romantics cheered when he announced at the Sinn Fein "Six-County AGM" that there would be five rallies "across the North" beginning on St Patrick's Day: "mobilisation" is to spread to "Cavan, Monaghan, Donegal, Leitrim and Louth".
YOUNGER donkeys have already been put to work. Since Chief Constable Hugh Orde blew the gaffe, members of the PSNI have been stoned and petrol-bombed any time they tried to investigate anything in a republican area, be it the bank robbery or the stabbing to death by republicans of an inhabitant of the Short Strand after a bar-room dispute.
And on Friday night, Sinn Fein mounted blockades throughout Belfast and Derry to protest at the IMC report.
Even more ominous is the news from interfaces where loyalist and republics "community leaders" kept the peace last year that republicans are upping the ante.
Tommy Kirkham of the Ulster Political Research Group is not my kind of chap, but he's pally with our President and her husband and seems to be at present peaceably inclined. He claims that republicans have embarked on a campaign of driving into loyalist estates and goading its residents into retaliating (the familiar Jerry-provoking-Tom routine):
"I am urging loyalists to be careful and not to be sucked into their game."
As a veteran of Drumcree and the associated parades mayhem of the mid- and late-1990s, who spent a great deal of time imploring Orangemen and assorted supporters not to be provoked, I am all too well aware that loyalists (usually donkeys led by donkeys) rarely see a republican trap without marching smartly into it.
And now we have the complication that many naive Orangemen believe that Ian Paisley is about to extract major parading concessions from Tony Blair.
Forget it, guys: Blair's worried about republican bombs, not fulminations from the Old Testament.
Whether Adams MP, McGuinness MP, Martin Ferris TD and the rest of the IRA army council (not to speak of Pat Doherty MP, presently seconded to other duties) plan to go back to "war" or not, they are relying on loyalists to help republican protests turn nasty by acting stupidly and/or viciously.
If we are to defeat this murderous conspiracy, we, the democrats, have to use our brains, keep our cool and show courage.
I hope Bertie's up to it. Blair probably isn't.