Dissident 'IRA' has several hundred members
THREE DISSIDENT republican groups which this week announced they were coming together under the title of the “Irish Republican Army” are believed to have a membership of several hundred.
This has led to speculation that the new grouping might be capable of launching a campaign of attacks against members of the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) and the British army.
The bodies in question are the Real IRA, the Derry-based Republican Action Against Drugs (RAAD) and a third, loosely organised group blamed for the booby-trap car-bomb which killed Constable Ronan Kerr (25) outside his home near Omagh, Co Tyrone, in April 2011.
The merger of the groups is understood to have taken place last month and followed a period of speculation that such a move was in train. It is understood the Real IRA and RAAD will now cease to exist as the new grouping claims the mantle of traditional militant republicanism.
The Continuity IRA is not part of the new grouping. The oldest of the factions opposed to the peace process, its political counterpart is Republican Sinn Féin.
The Real IRA was formed after a split from the mainstream Provisionals in 1997, but suffered a major setback in August 1998 when a car bomb it had placed in Omagh, Co Tyrone, killed 29 civilians, including a woman pregnant with twins.
Coming under intense pressure, the group quickly declared a ceasefire, but later announced a renewal of activities in January 2000. The group claimed responsibility for the 2009 attack on Massereene barracks in Co Antrim which resulted in the deaths of two British soldiers.
RAAD consisted of ex-Provisionals who have been running a vigilante campaign in Derry city involving the shooting and forcible exile of men they accused of drug dealing and other anti-social activity. It claimed responsibility for killing father-of-two Andrew Allen (24), who was shot dead at his home in Buncrana, Co Donegal, on February 9th last. They claimed he was a drug dealer, which his family denied. Recently, the group said it would also be launching attacks on the PSNI.
The new self-styled “IRA” has established an “army council” which said in a statement this week: “Following extensive consultations, Irish republicans and a number of organisations involved in armed actions against the armed forces of the British crown have come together within a unified structure, under a single leadership, subservient to the constitution of the Irish Republican Army.
“The leadership of the Irish Republican Army remains committed to the full realisation of the ideals and principles enshrined in the Proclamation of 1916.”
In a sideswipe at Sinn Féin, the statement claims “the Irish people have been sold a phoney peace, rubber-stamped by a token legislature in Stormont”.
Complaining that “non-conformist republicans are being subjected to harassment, arrest and violence by the forces of the British crown”, the statement calls for “an internationally observed timescale that details the dismantling of British political interference in our country”.