“Non-conformist republican groups” merge under banner of the “IRA”

Under the banner of the “IRA”, the Real IRA, Republican Action Against Drugs (RAAD) as well as smaller groups often referred to as Óglaigh na hÉireann have formed a “unified structure under a single leadership”. They will be “subservient to the constitution of the Irish Republican Army”. Only the Continuity IRA remains outside the new partnership.

Up to now politicians have tended to belittle the dissident threat, pointing to its fragmentation. Consolidated factions under a single brand will surely raise worries about recruitment and the new group’s collective capacity for terror.

The new group issued a statement to the Guardian’s Henry McDonald who posted an article online this evening:

In its statement, the new group said: “In recent years the establishment of a free and independent Ireland has suffered setbacks due to the failure among the leadership of Irish nationalism and fractures within republicanism” – a reference to the divisions between hardline republicans opposed to the peace settlement and Sinn Féin which has followed a political strategy. Martin McGuinness of Sinn Féin, Northern Ireland’s deputy first minister, was a leading figure in the Provisional IRA.

In a clear dig at Sinn Féin’s participation in the power-sharing executive with unionists, the dissidents’ statement said: “The Irish people have been sold a phoney peace, rubber-stamped by a token legislature in Stormont.”

It said that the “necessity of armed struggle in pursuit of Irish freedom” against what it described as “the forces of the British crown” would only be avoided by the removal of the British military presence in Northern Ireland. It demanded “an internationally observed timescale that details the dismantling of British political interference in our country”.

It also attacked the Northern Ireland secretary, Owen Paterson, over the arrest of several key republican figures, referring to him as an “overlord”. “Non-conformist republicans are being subjected to harassment, arrest and violence by the forces of the British crown; others have been interned on the direction of an English overlord. It is Britain, not the IRA, which has chosen provocation and conflict.”

Henry McDonald was driven out of Derry, over the border and left near a disused farmhouse.

Another vehicle pulled up. A man I had never seen before got out and handed over a typed statement revealing that the Real IRA, Republican Action Against Drugs and an amalgam of other disparate armed republican groups, were coalescing into a single unified force.

After the contents of the statement were taken on a notepad the communiqué was burned at the side of the road. There were no mobile phones or recording devices allowed at this bizarre encounter. The digital era is perceived as posing new threats to the security of terror groups in Ireland in terms of their being tracked and covertly recorded.

The only digital recording device was his pencil.

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