To understand the Republic
Published 14/02/2016 | 02:30
The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.
So began an editorial in this newspaper on June 30, 1996, under a headline 'The sense of duty to protect democracy itself', in reference to a quotation usually attributed to Edmund Burke, the Irish statesman.
Unusually, the editorial was personally signed by the then editor, the late Aengus Fanning, in the aftermath of the murder of our colleague Veronica Guerin 20 years ago this year.
Fanning hoped that the murder of Veronica and that of Detective Garda Jerry McCabe would lead to a new will and true determination on the part of legislators to take on organised crime whether from political subversion or gangland: "We fear that it won't," he said.
This is what he wrote of our legislators: "Can we expect them to confront the fact that the use of the phrase 'civil liberties' has often become debased and can conceal the truth: that we seem, in practice, determined to allow people the liberty to murder?"
Fanning's prophetic words echoed down through the decades last week to sound with deadening and chilling effect, threefold: on the streets of our capital city; in the newsrooms of this media organisation and, by turn, during a televised debate between our leaders ahead of what will be a seminal General Election.
In that debate, the Taoiseach Enda Kenny recalled the killing of Jerry McCabe and those fears, expressed at the time, for the safety and well-being of potential jurors at the trial of his killers; he also recalled the eventual trial of those killers at the Special Criminal Court, and, finally, that there was a Sinn Fein TD at hand when eventually they were released from prison.
The Fianna Fail leader, Micheal Martin, in a powerful intervention, challenged the audacity of the Sinn Fein leader, Gerry Adams to present himself as a civil libertarian by his insistence that the Offences Against the State Act be repealed and the Special Criminal Court be abolished. Perhaps most relevant of all, the Labour leader, Joan Burton stated that Mr Adams did not understand the Republic.
To understand the Republic is to understand a requirement for such legislation, and the continued existence of the Special Criminal Court, at a time when two garda officers of this State have been murdered by terrorist-criminals referred to as 'dissident' but with a continued intertwining to the terrorist organisation fronted, at least at a political level, by Gerry Adams himself down through the decades.
To understand the Republic is to understand the truth in what Aengus Fanning said, that there is a duty to protect democracy itself, not only from those in pursuit of criminal enterprise who will hold a loaded weapon to the head of a garda, or seek to intimidate a juror, but also brandish automatic weaponry in a public place, a hotel or on the street, to take a human life, and then threaten the lives of jurors or journalists in pursuit of that truth, in defence of that democracy.
To understand the Republic, however, is to go further than that; it is also to shine a light into the heart of the Republic itself. This is what the Irish Times said after the murder of Veronica Guerin: "It has been more than depressing to hear and to watch the members of this Government, as with its predecessors in other moments of tragedy, react in a combination of flusters and of cliche, as the tide of anger reaches this high point.
"For they have done so little over the years. And because they have fooled nobody, rushing from one crime problem to another, with platitudes about garda resources, and the Government's 'firm intentions' to come to grips with drugs today, attacks on the elderly tomorrow, armed robbery the day after - the list goes on."
The State failed then, 20 years ago, and it is failing now. To understand the Republic is to know what it means to stand by the Republic, to act with more than platitude, but with good authority, in service of a solemn duty to protect democracy itself.