The reality that people are “sick and tired of violence” may be dawning on dissidents, following reports that one terror group is urging a “rethink” of strategy, it is claimed.
The political party Republican Network for Unity (RNU) – widely viewed as the political wing of Oglaigh na hEireann (ONH), used an Easter address to say “that a strategic rethink is required” and repeatedly referred to the impact of recent election results. RNU has always denied being political wing of ONH.
The Irish News reported yesterday that this signals that “ONH may be preparing to end its armed campaign”.
Ex-Special Branch officer William Matchett said that “every republican engaged in ‘armed struggle’ is destined for prison”.
“If they are unaware of this, they are living in dreamland,” he said. “The intelligence agencies both sides of the border hold the upper hand.
“One needs only to look at the high-profile figures currently in prison or facing prosecution.
“But politics is also a factor. The causes of the Troubles – discrimination against a Catholic minority – no longer exist.
“And following the Belfast Agreement nationalists support the police. Neither is there a loyalist complication and the state has not made mistakes, such as internment.
“In other words, groups like ONH have nobody to blame.”
Conflict across the world has also left people everywhere “sick and tired of violence” he added.
But UUP MP Tom Elliott was concerned that some PIRA weapons decommissioned in previous processes ended up in the hands of dissidents.
“The difficulty is they [ONH] can say they will decommission but will they, will they really? Or will it just be a token gesture?”
The real deciding factor would be “when all violence is ended” he added.
Kenny Donaldson, spokesman for Innocent Victims United, said it appeared the move was “towards embracing a democratic political pathway” which he “cautiously welcomed”.
Sean O’Callaghan, former Irish state agent in the IRA, warned: “I would not write off dissident republicanism.”
They have been “drifting” towards the ‘New IRA’ for some time, he added.
Temporary ACC Stephen Cargin said: “The PSNI welcomes any move away from violence and towards engaging in law-abiding, peaceful and democratic processes.”
No government comment was available.
RNU did not offer any comment.
ONH is now considered relatively inactive, but around 2010 it was considered the most dangerous of the dissident republican groups.
In 2010 the Independent Monitoring Commission said the group was responsible for 18 attacks on security forces in the six months from March to August that year. It said: “Of the [various dissident] groups, the two factions of RIRA especially Óglaigh na hÉireann were by far the most active and dangerous.”
ONH seriously injured Irish-speaking PSNI Constable Peadar Heffron in January 2010 in a car bomb attack.
READ MORE: Strategic rethink necessary: RNU