“ONH and the other dissident groups cannot succeed where, as they point out themselves, the Provos failed”

Unlike the Guardian’s interview with the Real IRA, Brian Rowan’s interview with leadership representatives of Oglaigh na hEireann (ONH) was face-to-face and, as he admits, unnerving.

From the interview in the Belfast Telegraph

Rowan: Let me talk about contacts, quiet dialogue, involving mediators talking both to your organisation and British and Irish officials. Do you recognise that description?

ONH: I recognise the description, yes.

Rowan: I’m told it’s at two levels — alternatives to punishment attacks, and exploring a way forward without armed struggle/activity. Is that a reasonable description?

ONH: We are a people’s army. It’s inevitable that we will be interacting with the community. Some punishment attacks are resolvable, others aren’t. It’s a giant leap to get from that to a perception of engagement with the British or Irish governments.

People from all walks of life talk to us about non-violent ways. Again, we don’t see that as direct contact with either government.

Rowan: How do you respond to the description of dissident republicans as traitors — “conflict junkies”?

ONH: We think it’s farcical. Some of the hypocritical comments coming from former armed republicans who are engaged in demonisation of former comrades for upholding the proclamation and the IRA’s Green Book.

Rowan: We hear a lot about senior Sinn Fein figures being warned of threats. Are they legitimate targets in your eyes?

ONH: No. Ireland has seen enough of feuds while the British sit back and happily watch it.

Rowan: The IRA was better armed, supported, resourced, and they acknowledged a military stalemate. So, what makes you think you can achieve more?

ONH: The overview of the structure we pointed to |earlier in the interview, we |believe has more durability to penetration. We have no |desire to replicate or be a morph of the Provisional IRA. They failed — so, why would we want to copy them? There is a fragile Assembly. There is a forging together of political opposites that is much easier to undermine and defeat than the war that the Provisionals had.

Rowan: Do you think a war can be won?

ONH: We think a war can |create the conditions where republicans can create |dialogue that will fulfil |republican objectives.

Rowan: Brits out?

ONH: A 32 county democratic socialist republic. Brits out is simply not good enough.

Rowan: So it’s a pipedream then?

ONH: Some people say that Ian Paisley and Martin McGuinness sitting in a room sharing power in a partitionist Assembly endorsing British policing was also a pipedream.

Rowan: Has killing become the cause, just to say, ‘we haven’t sold out’ — killing for killing’s sake?

ONH: As far as we are concerned we are not engaged in killing for killing’s sake. We are engaged in a war against the illegal occupation of our country and usurpation of Irish sovereignty.

Rowan: So you think that killing will work?

ONH: We think that a war will |create the conditions for |credible dialogue aimed at British withdrawal. Internal settlements are not what Irish republicans fought, died and went to jail for.

As Eamonn McCann pointed out, “they are doing nothing which the Provisionals didn’t do before them and with the same political rationale”.

And, even though they recognise that the Provisional IRA “failed”, “No one in this small, enclosed biosphere ever told them this project was never going to work in the first place…”

As Liam Clarke argues

ONH’s attacks may be unpopular with the general population, but they are playing to a different audience. They explain, “successful operations increase morale. It also gives republicans increased confidence to carry out more daring attacks. Republicans who acknowledge that Oglaigh na hEireann are doing the right things offer their services. That in turn increases Oglaigh na hEireann’s capabilities even further.”

They hope that they can become the new IRA, uniting all who support republican violence under their banner. ONH say they have “friendly and cordial relations” with other armed groups, but that they don’t mount joint operations or share expertise.

Nevertheless, security sources believe that they already provide training for Real IRA members at camps in the Republic.

For the security forces, the next 12 months is seen as crucial to disrupting ONH’s expansion. If they can survive that, and absorb the other dissident groups, they may be with us for some time.

Adds  In related news

A former leading member of the Provisional IRA and Crumlin Road prison escaper was remanded in custody with consent to bail when he appeared at the Special Criminal Court in Dublin today.

Anthony Sloan (aged 56) a native of Belfast with an address at Ard na Mara, Dundalk, Co Louth was charged on Tuesday with membership of an illegal styling itself the Irish Republican Army, otherwise Oglaigh na hÉireann, otherwise the IRA on October 31.