On the eve of the Summer Olympic games in London, reports are emerging out of Ireland that a group of dissident Irish Republicans are forming a “new IRA” and have threatened to wage a campaign of terror on British targets in Northern Ireland.
According to reports, four principal Republican groups in Northern Ireland are uniting, in defiance of the peace process that has introduced a power-sharing government in Ulster after decades of sectarian violence. It is that very system the “new” IRA seeks to destabilize.
Irish media reported that the two main segments of this renewed IRA are the “The Real IRA” (a dissident group that was formed in 1997 as a result of a rupture within the Provisional IRA) and another organization calling itself the Republican Action Against Drugs (which has reportedly been getting rid of drug dealers in the city of Derry). RAAD has allegedly killed one man for drug dealing and forced 40 other into ‘exile.’
These two entities are joined by a loose coalition of other Republican splinter groups.
Ever since the Good Friday agreements of 1998 (which basically legitimized Republicans in Ulster politics and commenced a new era in Northern Irish affairs), dissidents had become marginalized.
However, Real IRA is believed to have been behind the 1998 bombing in Omagh (four months after Good Friday) which killed more than two dozen people. They are also believed to be responsible for a bombing in West London in June 2001, and an attack on a British army base in Massereene army base in 2009 which killed two soldiers.
Now, it appears they have re-emerged under a new incarnation.
In a statement to the Guardian newspaper of Great Britain, the New IRA declared: “We have formed a unified structure, under a single leadership. The organization will be subservient to the constitution of the Irish Republican Army.”
It is unclear how many members this new manifestation of the IRA comprises – sources told the Guardian that it will have a paramilitary strength of “several hundred armed dissidents.”
The new IRA also stated: “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. The Irish people have been sold a phony peace, rubber-stamped by a token legislature in Stormont [Northern Ireland’s parliament]. The necessity of armed struggle in pursuit of Irish freedom against the forces of the British crown will only be avoided by the removal of the British military presence in Northern Ireland. We demand an internationally observed timescale that details the dismantling of British political interference in our country.”
However, the threat posed by this “new IRA” would appear to be muted.
Brian Rowan, a Northern Ireland journalist told Radio Ulster that the remaining IRA dissidents are too few and fractured to mount a legitimate security threat, although they can commit isolated acts of violence.
"It's confused, it's a place where there are competing egos and interests," he said.
"It's a world in which there is one day a kind of reaching out to one another, only to be followed by a split. Are they capable of re-running the IRA campaign? No they are not, because they do not have the support. Do they have the capability to kill? Yes they do and that is the danger."
Moreover, Gerry Kelly, a member of the republican Sinn Fein party, also downplayed the new IRA militancy.
"They come together and go apart almost as a matter of course," he said, according to BBC, adding that these dissidents had "actually killed more civilians and people from their own community than those they would call the enemy.”
He added: "I have an absolute belief in dialogue. I don't want to see more people being killed.”