Former hunger striker Gerard Hodgins last night joined three former IRA men, who also spoke out in the News Letter, to ask dissident republicans to “reconsider” their so-called campaign.
Last week former senior figures in the Provisional IRA, Richard O’Rawe, Anthony McIntyre and Tommy McKearney separately called for dissident republicans to call a halt to their activities.
Mr Hodgins, from west Belfast, said: “I would like to ask them to reconsider the effectiveness or lack of effectiveness, of what they are doing. And to try and come up with a non-violent alternative because there is no appetite or support for a violent conflict in this country among any significant number of the population.”
Mr Hodgins was first imprisoned for IRA activities when he was 17 years old, spent 20 days on hunger strike before it was called off, and was imprisoned a second time in the 1990s for the alleged kidnapping of a police informer (the conviction has since been overturned).
He said that since 1996 “I have not bothered with any of it”, referring to the IRA.
“The dissidents today who say they are still at war seem to have the mindset that to be a republican you have to be fighting a war and can only express yourself through bombs and bullets,” he said.
“Republicanism is not a war philosophy, we did go through a conflict but it came to an end. Part of the reason why it came to an end was a war weariness and there was sufficient infiltration to help steer the IRA to where they (the Government) wanted it to go.
“I would have no doubt the intelligence and security agencies, having penetrated and been able to deliver the IRA, would have no problem in winding down the dissidents.
“At the minute they [the dissidents] are not going to advance republicanism and the only thing they will achieve is getting their own people to spend long periods in prison.”
Mr Hodgins said the other “big lesson” the Provisional IRA learned during the Troubles was “that you need to persuade unionism by words rather than by actions”.