Dissidents who formed a new political party are following the same path of all militant republicans – and should now fully embrace democratic politics to avoid the violence that Ireland rejects, it is claimed.
Those were the thoughts of SDLP MLA Nichola Mallon in response to the launch of Saoradh [Irish for liberation] at the Canal Court hotel in Newry at the weekend.
During proceedings, chairman David Jordan made a thinly veiled attack on Sinn Fein, slamming “false prophets... defeated and consumed by the very system they claim to oppose”.
Messages of support were read out from New IRA members in Maghaberry and Portlaoise prisons. The party’s constitution says it may contest elections – but only on an abstentionist basis. There was no suggestion dissidents were leaving violence behind.
Mrs Mallon commented that Saoradh is on “the first step in a journey that every militant group in the history of the Irish republican tradition has ever taken”.
She added: “They should now take steps two, three and four to avoid unnecessary and unwanted violence that the people of Ireland have rejected at every opportunity.”
DUP MLA and party chairman Lord Maurice Morrow said the move shows that dissident republicans “realise they are failing to gain support in their campaign and have moved into the political sphere”.
The hierarchy of the new party is “a line-up” of well known dissident republicans, he said.
“It will be very interesting to see what, if any, support this new political party will have,” Lord Morrow added.
Similarly the UUP said it welcomed anyone engaging fully in the political process.
However it noted Saoradh are adhering to “a tired and outdated abstentionist programme that has failed in the past and will fail again”.
TUV leader Jim Allister said individuals connected to the IRA have for years been “lauded as statesmen and elevated to the highest offices in the land after gaining their status off the back of the Provisional IRA terror campaign”.
He asked: “Will Saoradh follow the trajectory of Sinn Fein and gain politically from violence?”
Sinn Fein said its vision and analysis have won the support of half a million voters.
“We encourage genuine political debate within republicanism” a spokesman added.
Meanwhile, Kenny Donaldson of Innocent Victims United asked if any Northern Ireland independent republican councillors support the new party.
He also asked the Secretary of State to say whether it should be proscribed “given its definite ties with terrorism”.
The Northern Ireland Office responded that this may be done if an organisation “is concerned in terrorism and it is proportionate to do so”.
Chairman of Saoradh is Tyrone republican David Jordan.
A 12-strong executive sat at the top table at Saturday’s event.
They were reported to include Nuala Perry from west Belfast; Ardoyne dissident Dee Fennell; Kevin Murphy from Coalisland and Mandy Duffy from Lurgan.
Prominent dissident republican Colin Duffy, reported to be Mandy’s brother-in-law, was present in the audience.