A former IRA bomber who turned his back on terrorism says the Red Hand Commando proposal to become a community group is so unbelievable it must have been lifted from the comedy TV series ‘Give my head peace’.
Londonderry man Shane Paul O’Doherty, who served time for an IRA letter bomb campaign before publicly renouncing terrorism, said: “In a scene surely scripted for the satirical comedy ‘Give My Head Peace’, old paramilitaries can’t find anything better to be about than commemorating murder and mayhem; but you know what – this time it’s for real.”
The Red Hand Commando (RHC) called off their murder campaign but still affirm the legitimacy of their actions and demands government deal with violent dissidents or provoke another generation of loyalists to violence, he said. This mirrors republican efforts to legitimise violence and ignore their victims.
“It would better suit all former paramilitaries to spend their remaining time seeking God’s pardon for their sins and seeking to satisfy the needs of victims for truth and justice before they are called to account for their deeds before the throne of God.”
Former IRA prisoner, now political blogger, Anthony McIntyre said the proposal might have gained more traction after the IRA ended its campaign.
“Title deeds hardly matter: the Provisional IRA retaining the name did not prevent another group claiming it for themselves,” he said. “The need to retain the name smacks too much of bragging rights. The UDA was legal for over 20 years and it made no difference to their activities.”
Ultimately the real issue is whether groups wish to break with illegality or institutionalise it, he added.
Shankill Road Pastor Jack McKee said paramilitary brutality continues today and while some want to leave the past behind, de-proscribing “is not the way forward”. Pastor McKee added: “Transforming into a butterfly is still the same entity – with wings.”