Monday, 16 June 2014

Dissident republican groups

The world of dissident republicanism is a complex world and I have written this post to provide a short description of most of the dissident republican political groups.

The term 'dissident republican' is not a new one but was coined in the mid-1970s when the Official IRA was engaged in a shooting war with the fledgling INLA.

Republican Sinn Fein emerged in 1986 after a split in Sinn Fein but it sees itself as the true Sinn Fein, maintaining an 'unbroken continuity' with past.  According to its national website:

Republican SINN FEIN Poblachtach was founded in 1905.  In 1969 following the reformist/revolutionary split Sinn Fein reorganised as Provisional Sinn Fein upholding the Sinn Fein constitution.  In 1986 Provisional Sinn Fein under a misguided leadership decided to take their seats in a British  imposed parliament, namely the 26-County Parliament Leinster House.  The movement split.  Sinn Fein reformed again out of the walkout of the 86 Ard-Fheis led by the true Republican leadership, who saw the failure of the new Provisional leadership's decision to enter into a partitionist assembly.  This as predicted led to a greater erosion of Republican principles, to the acceptance of entering a new Stormont and an acceptance of British Partition.  Republican Sinn Fein uphold the right of the Irish people to oppose continued British occupation in Ireland.
RSF is regarded as the political wing of the Continuity IRA although this is denied by RSF.
The 32 County Sovereignty Movement was founded on 7 December 1997 at a meeting in Finglas in Dublin.  Most of the founder members had been members of Sinn Fein and some had been expelled from the party.  Bernadette Sands McKevitt, a sister of Bobby Sands and wife of Michael McKevitt, was a prominent member of the group. 

Michael McKevitt was a founding member of the Real IRA and the 32 County Sovereignty Movement is often referred to as the political wing of the Real IRA, the organisation that carried out the Omagh bombing in 1998.  In 2003 Michael McKevitt was sentenced in the Irish Republic to twenty years in prison on two terrorist charges, 'membership of an illegal organisation', the Real IRA, and 'directing terrorism'.

Councillor Gary Donnelly
Gary Donnelly, a member of the 32 County Sovereignty Movement was elected on the first county to the new Derry and Strabane Council.  He topped the poll in the Bogside and Creggan area of Londonderry.

Another prominent member of the organisation, Marian Price, was jailed in the 1970s for the Provisional IRA bombing of the Old Bailey in London.  Later she turned against Sinn Fein and has been a strong critic of Adams and McGuinness.  Earlier this year she admitted participating in a Real IRA Easter commemoration in April 2011, during which she was pictured holding a statement which was read by a masked man in a Londonderry cemetery.  At the time of her arrest she was secretary of the 32 CSM.  She also admitted a charge of buying a mobile phone used by the Real IRA to claim responsibility for the murder of two soldiers in Antrim in March 2009.
Eirigi was formed in Dublin in April 2006 as a campaigns group and the name means 'arise'.  At its first ard fheis in May 2007 it voted to become a political party and today it claims to have branches in counties Antrim, Armagh, Cork, Donegal, Down, Fermanagh, Sligo, Tyrone and Wicklow.

The chairman of the party is Brian Leeson (Dublin) and the vice-chairman is Rab Jackson (Belfast).  The general secretary is Brendan McKenna (Breandan MacCionnaith), who was the leader of republican opposition to the Orange parade from Drumcree parish church.

At the 2014 election to Belfast City Council Eirigi fielded two candidates Maire Drumm and Padraic MacCoitir but both were unsuccessful.

The party is not believed to have a paramilitary wing but in November 2012 Ursula Ni Shionnain, a prominent member of Eirigi, was arrested in County Offaly and remanded in custody for possession of two handguns and ammunition.
The Republican Network for Unity (RNU) was formed in 2007 after Sinn Fein voted to support the PSNI.  It was originally named the Ex-POWs and Concerned Republicans Against RUC/PSNI & MI5 but later changed its name to Republican Network for Unity.

Some commentators view the RNU as the political wing of Oglaigh na hEireann, a splinter from the Real IRA, although this has been rejected by the RNU. 

In 2011 Carl Reilly, the RNU chairperson, gave an ambiguous denial that the RNU is the  political wing of the RNU.  He said, 'We don't speak for or explain the actions of Oglaigh na hEireann.  That is a matter for that organisation.'  However at its 2011 ard fheis the RNU voted to send 'comradely greetings' to the ONH.  It also 'asserted the right of Irishmen and women to use disciplined resistance to defend the Irish Republic proclaimed in 1916.'
The RNU fielded two candidates in the recent local government elections, Sammy Cusick in Oldpark and Tommy Doherty in Court, which now includes Lower Falls, but neither was elected.

Martin Og Meehan, son of the late Martin Meehan, is a prominent figure in RNU.  He is also the author of the Ardoyne Republican blog.
The 1916 Societies are an Irish Separatist Movement and believe that the Irish Republic should be a Sovereign Independent State.  According to their website they 'believe that a party political strategy will not unite Ireland.  They have no intention of engaging in an electoral strategy to partitionist institutions.'  'Individual members may favour or indeed be involved with political organisations but the 1916 societies as a collective body will remain independent.'

Each society is named after a major republican leader and that in Ardoyne is named after Sean MacDermott (Sean MacDiarmada), one of the seven leaders of the 1916 Easter Rising. 

Dee Fennell speaking at a Sean MacDiarmada Republican Society event
The 1916 Societies website has a photograph of Dee Fennell speaking at a Sean MacDiarmada Republican Society event.  Fennell is of course a spokesman for the Greater Ardoyne Residents Collective (GARC) and was an independent candidate in the Oldpark DEA in the recent local government elections.

The 1916 society in Carrickmore is named after Joseph McGarrity, an Irish-American republican who collaborated with the Nazis and initiated the IRA collaboration with the Nazis.  For much of his life he was the leading Irish-American supporter of the IRA.
The Irish Republican Socialist Party has a somewhat different origin in that it was a breakaway from the Official IRA rather than the Provisional IRA.  The IRSP was formed on 8 December 1974 by former members of the Official Republican Movement, independent socialists and trade unionists.  A paramilitary wing, the Irish National Liberation Army (INLA) was founded on the same day, although its existence was kept secret for some time.  Seamus Costello was elected as the party's first chairperson and the first chief of staff of the INLA.  He had been expelled from the Official IRA following a court-martial and also from Official Sinn Fein.

The politics of the IRSP are far-left republican socialism and have been variously described as Marxist-Leninist and Trotskyist.

Three members of the INLA died in the 1981 hunger strike - Patsy O'Hara, Kevin Lynch and Michael Devine and in the same year party members Gerry Kelly and Sean Flynn won seats on Belfast City Council in a joint campaign with the People's Democracy but neither councillor served a full term.  One went on the run after being implicated during the supergrass trials and the other resigned after becoming disillusioned with the IRSP.

The headquarters of the IRSP is Costello House on the Falls Road in West Belfast but it has no elected representatives.  It fielded candidates in the 2011 local government elections in Northern Ireland, its first foray into electoral politics in almost thirty years, but none of them secured a seat, although a candidate in Strabane missed out by just one vote.  In Oldpark DEA in North Belfast the candidate was Paul Little.

The INLA declared a ceasefire on 22 August 1998 and the following year it stated that 'there is no political or moral argument to justify a resumption of the campaign.'  In October 2009 the INLA began decommissioning its weapons.



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