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A ‘sustained campaign will take time to develop’. October 7, 2016

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.

I’ve raised this before but a quote in an overview of dissident Republican groups in the Irish Times made me think. Just on the overview little has changed since last we looked at this issue. Perhaps that’s no surprise. The Real IRA is a part of the New IRA. There’s Óglaigh na hÉireann, Continuity IRA as well. Apparently the latter has splintered into ‘a number of factions’. It’s a short overview.

Anyhow, here’s the quote.

Óglaigh na hÉireann is considered a splinter of the Real IRA. In an interview in November 2010, one of its leaders said: “The Provisional IRA took approximately 15 years to wind down. There is no ready-made IRA pack that can be assembled in a short period of time. An [Óglaigh na hÉireann] capable of having a sustained campaign will take time to develop.”

Doesn’t this raise quite a number of questions. For a start what is the definition of a ‘sustained’ campaign. How long is the time it will take to ‘develop’. If it took fifteen years for PIRA to wind down then how long is it likely to reach the same level as PIRA. Or say a mid point between the two? Or even a quarter of that level. And would that constitute a ‘sustained’ campaign. What about the political side? The latter provided at various points a degree of legitimation of the armed campaign, and of course and more importantly was an hinterland that allowed for a sustained campaign. Where is the political side, where are the councillors or MPs or other who represent those who seek a sustained campaign?

It’s this absence – in relation to the answers to those questions – that makes all this seem so abstract. Obviously there’s no dissident group that can manage anything other than relatively marginal attacks. Indeed the Real IRA, perhaps the most significant grouping of all, was itself only able to mount a fairly limited campaign in the 1997 to 1998 period (albeit one of those was the Omagh bomb – which pointed to the simple limitations of an armed campaign during and after that time and as importantly the sheer lack of support for it). These attacks while marginal can inflict loss of life. But their ability to mount a challenge against the dispensation, let alone the state, is so minimal that there’s a real pointlessness about it.

There’s an accompanying piece by Brian Rowan which asks ‘how serious is the threat’? It’s equivocal.

Security sources in the North believe that about 100 dissidents are now in “command and control” of the different organisations, with “a couple of hundred” active in what is described as “the operational tier”.
This is an intelligence assessment of the combined strength of the so-called New IRA, Óglaigh na hÉireann and the Continuity IRA factions.
“The threat wouldn’t be assessed at ‘severe’ if the operational tempo wasn’t high across the groups,” an intelligence source says.


That said, there is no suggestion from police or intelligence sources that these groups can re-create the level of activity associated with the IRA in the period from the 1970s into the 1990s.

And that’s the problem for those who would seek to mount a challenge to the state. As Rowan notes:

In the 20 years spanning August 1996 to August 2016, the dissident threat has always been there. It has never gone away, but that threat has never been at the level, or even close to the level, once associated with the mainstream IRA.
There have been periods in which there have been bursts of activity, but never anything that could be called a sustained campaign.

But for that last to happen there would have to be some catastrophic rupture, something that fundamentally changed the nature of the dispensation. In truth that would, one suspects, be something that the dissidents themselves could not generate. It would – as it were – be an unhappy coincidence, an event or series of events that together allowed for opportunity. What could that be?


1. dublinstreams - October 7, 2016

Brexit and the chance to get some wider _political_ leverage is the best one can hope for.


2. Joe - October 7, 2016

The founding of Saoradh was a positive step – for peace. The more time they spend doing politics in Saoradh, the less time they’ll have for violence.

Hard to see what, in the short term, could happen that would give the dissos oxygen and the support they’d need to increase their activity.
The PIRA and all that arose out of the circumstances of that time.
Hopefully for the rest of our lifetimes, the North will be much as it is today – peaceful but with a lot of shitty bits, sectarianism, community separation and so forth.


3. An Sionnach Fionn - October 7, 2016

The pre-Troubles IRA went from relative inactivity in 1968 to full-scale insurgency by 1971, so the claim of a 15 year build-up to military readiness rings pretty untrue. They just don’t have the circumstances or support for a sustained campaign. Full stop. However, Brexit in its more extreme form might provide both.


WorldbyStorm - October 7, 2016

Yes. It would certainly provide a range of hard relatively accessible targets. British govt playing with fire .


Joe - October 7, 2016

They have as many accessible targets as they could ever want already. What they don’t have, thank God, is very much sympathy or support from the vast majority of the nationalist population. I can’t see the effects of Brexit changing that. The PIRA had enough sympathy and support to sustain their campaign because of 60 years of Stormont misrule and all the other circumstances that came together to create the horror of the recent conflict.
Brexit, no matter how hard or soft, will not recreate those circumstances and conditions. It’ll be a pain in the arse but not a call to arms.


4. roddy - October 7, 2016

As someone who lived through the whole thing, there were a number of events that ignited and sustained the campaign – internment71 ,Bloody Sunday72, Castlereagh mid 70s, H block 76 to 81,shoot to kill early to mid 80s, collusion mid 80s -early 90s,not to mention the Glenanne gang that operated the entire 70s.Nothing remotely resembling any of these things has existed for 20 years and the PSNI for example has went out of it’s way to avoid inflicting casualties.The legal system is unregognizable in terms of it’s make up,Attempts to create cause celebres around the likes of Marian Price came to nothing when she was treated humanely.Another thing is that a generation has grown up who could not stick the long terms of imprisonment that tens of thousands went through and the prospect of such is totally alien to them Finally Adams and the leadership around him had a charisma that the dissos could never match. The characters that prevail in disso circles are in the main just not popular or likeable.

Liked by 2 people

Joe - October 8, 2016


Liked by 1 person

5. CL - October 7, 2016

“The underlying assumption of the Good Friday agreement between the two governments was that both parts of Ireland would be included in a zone of free movement of goods and people; an assumption that is in the process of being unilaterally reversed by the UK side’s decision to leave that zone. Brexit will thus devastate trade flows, and human contact, within Ireland, with incalculable consequences, something which seems hardly to have entered the minds of most UK voters on June 23.”-John Bruton.
Devastation and ‘incalculable consequences’? Maybe.

But I agree with Joe here.

No matter how hard a Brexit the IRA is not going back to war because free trade between North and South and free movement of people may be impeded.


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