Do we need the “old ” IRA to contain the “new”?

Gang activity labelled “dissident republican” is spreading and is proving very difficult to check.  What is the connection between the killings in Dublin and the fatal shooting taxi driver of  Michael McGibbon?

Perhaps the most chilling aspect of McGibbon “ punishment shooting “  was that, rather than go the the police – or even Gerry Kelly –   he went to take his punishment, just as in the worst of the bad old days.

The 33-year-old had gone to meet his killers at Butler Place after refusing to come to the door when two paramilitaries visited his house in Ardoyne 24 hours earlier.

The tentacles of  the “ new “IRA” seem to be spreading wider and their writ may run deeper in areas like Ardoyne  than has been admitted.

Meanwhile  the results of the latest survey of dissident republican activity  published in the Guardian come as no surprise. The team of Morrison and Horgan have a considerable  track record.

.. in the categories “Catholics” and “criminals” the victims comprised more than 77% of the 175 people shot dead or wounded by armed dissident republicans.

The study, starting at a point in 2007 when Sinn Féin agreed to support the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) as part of a deal to restore devolution, stretches to the end of 2015, when all the people shot by the New IRA, Continuity IRA, and Óglaigh na hÉireann were Catholic civilians.

By contrast, police officers accounted for just over 15% of shooting casualties from 2007 to 2015, while over the same period British soldiers who were shot made up just over 0.5% of the overall casualty list.

Catholic civilians have suffered the same brunt from explosive attacks detonated by dissident republicans as PSNI officers; both groups, which were analysed by the terrorism experts John F Morrison and John Horgan, made up 40% of casualties injured in bomb, grenade and rocket attacks.

The information John E Morrison has gathered is impressive even though an earlier analysis of splits is not without its critics.

The Origins and Rise of Dissident Irish Republicanism. John F. Morrison. Bloomsbury. 2014.

This model is clearly laid out in the second chapter. There are three types of split: even split; uneven split; and split avoidance. The origins of the next split can be found in the legacy of the previous split. The key stage of the model is step three, when the split becomes inevitable. It is also this stage which determines the outcome of the split in terms of the success and strength of the rival groups which emerge. This reviewer would argue that such an approach is somewhat flawed. The four splits are all different, occurring within different contexts, involving a variety of personalities and subject to a myriad of external forces impacting on the genesis, development, and outcome of the splits.

The correct analysis of splits matters as it goes to the heart of  the dynamic of continuing violence.  The  ambitious aim of  ending paramilitarism taken on as a result of Fresh Start cannot be limited to the remaining elements of what we may have to call the old IRA.

It raises uncomfortable  questions. Do we need the old IRA bosses to try to help  keep the new ones in check? Or has  the republican movement( i.e. IRA and  Sinn Fein) become too establishment to retain its influence with the angry young?  Is there a kind of consolation in the fact that often they seem to be devouring each other or does this merely raise the general level of violence to include the innocent, as one group  vies for control over the others?  Again, we have been here before.

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  • Gopher

    If we need vigilantes why are we paying the PSNI and the criminal justice system? Can anyone form a Freikorps to deal with Republicans or just other Republicans ie “old IRA men” ? Probably the most nonsensical opening post ever.

  • Jag

    True, it’s a dumb proposition. Would Brian advocate PUP deal with the loyalist drug operations in Sandy Row or Mountpottinger Road?

  • Jollyraj

    “Or has the republican movement( i.e. IRA and Sinn Fein) become too establishment to retain its influence with the angry young?”

    I would say the various goon squads of the IRA have largely served their purpose now as far as SF are concerned.

  • Granni Trixie

    I think you cannot consider the questions posed above without filtering in that SF are in the business of legitimising the past violent tactics employed by the IRA. This includes a “justice” system defended as being necessary at the time because there was a policing vacuum and as communities demanded paramilitaries do something. SF claim that these conditions do not pertain now and so dissidents actions are not ‘legitimate’ as the IRA was).
    It was a ridiculous rationale for punishments then as now. Where I think this system of policing (intimidation and control really) needs to be challenged is in terms of its INJUSTICE especially when you consider where would such methods sit in the campaign for civil rights which includes the right to a fair trial and the right of appeal etc. Not to mention that it is usually working class young people who suffered punishment and exiling.

  • whatif1984true

    “The 33-year-old had gone to meet his killers” as always the locals know their tormentors and accept their presence. The criminals get away with murder because of the fear of locals.
    The sad thing is that over the years we have seen that it has become acceptable, a sort of community ‘Stockholm’ syndrome and I include the 70’s and 80’s in that also.

  • Gopher

    It’s nonsense on every level, Do we appoint a paramilitary ombudsman to make sure due process was followed during a knee capping? Will the various Chief of Staff, and Brigadiers report to a committee at the assembly? Quite honestly I’m dumbfounded by that OP

  • Declan Doyle

    Your comment is a cheap political shot, is also poses a mindless and potentially dangerous scenario. It is cheap because it effectively deflects from the subject matter of the OP – the growing threat dissidents pose within their respective communities. It is done for no other reason but to fire a bow at Sinn Fein; opportunistic politicking.
    The comment seems to suggest that if SF were to reverse their narrative on the IRA’s role in the recent conflict, it might deter the actions of dissidents.

    In fact, quite the opposite could occur. SF distancing itself from the Republican ‘struggle’ and delegitimizing the IRA including the hunger strikers and all that goes with it would hand dissidents (the very people you want to defeat) a propaganda victory with explosive consequences. While some seem bored with the ‘endless peace processing’, the harsh reality is that all is not well on the ground when dissidents are murdering people on the streets. Any attempt by SF to accommodate the vilification of IRA ‘volunteers’ could quite easily lead to a rapid acceleration in violence on the part of disgruntled so-called Republicans and lead to a flood of new recruits.

    Do not also forget that SF themselves are living targets as far as these people are concerned; as advised by the PSNI. This is borne out in death threats issued and attacks launched at SF members to the extent that one individual was beaten so badly he lost an eye. Little of this reaches the mainstream media as it continues in its campaign to dehumanize ordinary Shinners for political gain on behalf of the traditional media and political establishment.

    Today in Northern Ireland the overwhelming majority of citizens from all communities fully support the police, the GFA and the institutions which flow from it. Cities all over Europe have to grapple with a dangerous criminal underworld of some colour, not least Belfast.

    Do not lose sight of who your enemy really is, do not allow dissidents to deflect you into political point scoring as it suggests to them they can weaken your resolve to unite together and face down the threat. If you want party political fights, you have plenty to choose from, health, housing, education etc. etc.

    Where dissidents are concerned SF is your ally.

  • Granni Trixie

    That you cannot see that my stance is infact a perfectly valid moral position that is part of the problem, After all, we are not talking about past mistakes but actions that SF and the IRA still stand over….if they did then they could say to dissidents to learn from IRA mistakes that violence doesn’t work. But like yourself, they don’t.
    Bear in mind that coming from WB I saw at first hand what the IRA did to people and it wasn’t much different to that of the dissidents.

  • Cosmo

    agree…it is also what happens ( effectively) in Mafia-run societies, because the victims know if they don’t go to the meeting, their family will suffer too.
    I believe we really need to laud and reward the whistle- blowers, as heroes, to break this pattern.

  • Cosmo

    agree, it sticks in the craw, but it seems SF have to be the pied piper to lead these people from the dark.

  • Declan Doyle

    With respect, it may very well be moral to you, it might very well be relevant to you and you might very well see justice in SF somehow coming out publicly to condemn actions or ‘mistakes’, however – and this is key – Republicans simply do not share your view; and the fact that you cannot accept that is the real problem and it is your weakness in defeating the dark forces killing on the streets today. Your solution is not only is implausible but in the bigger scheme of things it is a dangerous track to walk down as it has many unknown unknowns. What you do have today however, is an assembly with parties and individuals committed to defeating dissidents. That is your strength. But you dilute that power when you use interpretations of the past to attack your ally and you ignite the resolve of dissidents to carry on. If their actions push you into division, they win.

  • Declan Doyle

    With respect, it may very well be moral to you, it might very well be relevant to you and you might very well see justice in SF somehow coming out publicly to condemn actions or ‘mistakes’, however – and this is key – Republicans simply do not share your view; and the fact that you cannot accept that is the real problem and it is your weakness in defeating the dark forces killing on the streets today. Your solution is not only is implausible but in the bigger scheme of things it is a dangerous track to walk down as it has many unknown unknowns. What you do have today however, is an assembly with parties and individuals committed to defeating dissidents. That is your strength. But you dilute that power when you use interpretations of the past to attack your ally and you ignite the resolve of dissidents to carry on. If their actions push you into division, they win.

  • Thomas Barber

    Lets not brush under the carpet the role of British intelligence in all this, the sad reality is dissidents like their loyalists counterparts get away with what they get away with because they are allowed by British intelligence to do so. As long as those dissident guns are being used against their own people the PSNI and MI5 are quite happy to allow the situation to continue.

  • Neil

    I believe we really need to laud and reward the whistle- blowers, as heroes, to break this pattern.

    Can you tell me what you mean by “whistle blower”?

  • Nevin

    “Gang activity”

    Since when did ‘gang’ enter the narrative? Paramilitary-style shootings and beatings have been around for quite a long time. Kathryn Torney has illustrated these barbaric activities from 1990 to 2014.

  • Cosmo

    well, unfortunately, some people might negatively refer to them as ‘touts’ or informers, I suppose. I do think whistleblowers are the modern heroes of our society, as there is a cost/threat to their comfort, safety and security, but they are doing something for the greater good.
    It’s really about people recognising when power is being corruptly and wrongfully abused and being prepared to signal it up for exposure and investigation.

  • Reader

    No matter how cynical you are, it’s still the case that protection rackets, extortion, smuggling and disorder are bad for the economy, and the security forces have ample reason to try to put a stop to it.

  • Neil

    Thanks for the reply. There are probably some people, myself among them, that would associate the local known informers as people involved in criminal activity who have been targeted and as a result of that have become informers, enjoying a degree of protection from the police, a blind eye turned to minor criminal activity. Very unpleasant people in my experience.

  • Cosmo

    Piffle, Thomas
    seems like a superstitious argument blaming the devil for wicked behaviour – rather than the actual humans who do it.
    and why aren’t they being informed on, by the way ?

  • Cosmo

    thanks for your honest response.
    Ambiguity plagues us all in life. And motivations are complicated.
    eg, like Schindler – did he make profit and/or save many lives? was he a hero ?

  • Neil

    eg, like Schindler – did he make profit and/or save many lives? was he a hero ?

    Haha, Christ no, we’ll leave that kinda thing for the Ken Livingstone thread or I’ll be here all night. 😉

    I just sense the perception locally, criminals as informers is a staggeringly poor idea in my opinion. But that seems to be largely who they are.

  • Cosmo

    perhaps, significant informers are more under cover…..why would they want to be just common criminals, but maybe if dissidents are in truth also common criminals, maybe that’s the best milieu in which to find them.

  • Granni Trixie

    Don’t forget appeals?

  • Theelk11

    So support us or you are morally deficient..
    When can i vote??

  • Gopher

    Let’s not brush aside 1998 supercedes 1916 yet FF, SF, Irish Labour, SDLP etc are incapable of accepting that fact therefore giving justification to thugs to do just about anything for “Ireland”. That’s the root cause now, the incapacity to accept 1998 is now the default position in Ireland.

  • Ciaran Goggins

    Given the level of police/gardai corruption to whom are the working class to turn?

  • Johnny Magnum

    Well it certainly disproves the big myth that Unionists peddle about dissidents being a sectarian threat to the PUL community.

  • Thomas Barber

    What planet have you been living on Cosmo would you like me to post you up lot and lots and lots of evidence where British intelligence and the RUC (Renamed the PSNI) allowed their agents within the various paramilitary groups on both sides to do whatever they liked including murdering hundreds upon hundreds of innocent people.

  • Cosmo

    You mean they are all like the FBI agent, Connolly, who let James Whitey Bulger (at one time FBI 2nd most wanted man after Bin Laden) operate with impunity?
    Deals with highly criminal informers finally got him convicted.

  • Thomas Barber

    Its not FF, SF, Labour or the SDLP’s job to enforce the law in the British controlled part of Ireland thats down to the PSNI and those hundreds of MI5 officers stationed in Hollywood.

    Just how are FF, SF, Irish labour and the SDLP incapable of accepting the fact that 1998 supercedes 1916 ?

    Are you suggesting that the above parties somehow give succour through words or actions that dissidents use to justify their actions ?

  • Thomas Barber

    No not even close unless of course they allowed him to import hundreds of weapons into America that were used to murder American citizens or the FBI give him guns to be used in murder or perhaps suggest targets for him to murder.

  • Kevin Breslin

    I say that we need to stop calling them dissident republicans and call them political gangsters, dido those “dissident loyalists” who are continuing violence. These killings have not and will not be considered an act of dissent among the vast, vast, vast majority of the population.

    People who want to dissent against Stormont and the decisions of mainstream Irish nationalism should be just as entitled to disassociate themselves from these psychopaths as the rest of us.

  • whatif1984true

    That is a remarkably damming statement. You cannot envisage that “non criminals” would provide information on the murderers thugs and drug dealers in local communities? Do you think “non criminals” actually approve of the thugs?

    Are the murderers thugs and drug dealers not criminals. I would not worry who provided information if it meant one less criminal on the street.