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