‘I don’t see mass appetite at a street level for the armed campaign’
Dominic Óg McGlinchey says it is ‘make your mind up time’ for dissident republicans
Dominic Óg McGlinchey: “There were things done that were unimaginable, not normal, but normal for people who lived in the occupied Six Counties.” Photograph: Joe O’Shaughnessy
File picture of Dominic McGlinchey. Photograph Pacemaker
Dominic Óg McGlinchey has serious misgivings and questions to ask about the strategic, pragmatic and even moral purpose of the continuing dissident republican campaign of violence. He wouldn’t be in the “business of condemning the armed struggle” but says it’s “make your mind up time” for dissident groups.
“I don’t see mass appetite at a street level for the armed campaign,” he adds. “If there was we would be having mass amounts of attacks.” He believes the various paramilitary groups must decide as to whether they take the paramilitary or political path. You can’t do both, he is certain. “It’s evolve or die, because that is where we are at.”
A case in point, he feels, is Friday’s dissident feud murder in Belfast of former Continuity IRA commander Tommy Crossan. “It’s terrible that anybody would be shot on a Good Friday evening, but when organisations lose direction and discipline that’s where you end up.”
McGlinchey recalls a conversation he had recently with a fellow republican. “I asked, is it possible for you to think for one second that you can build a republican movement without the use of the gun being at its core? And this person said of course it is.
“So then I said, well let’s engage in that process. Let’s start to have a conversation about the removal of the gun from Irish politics. Is that not what everybody wants? So how do you go about bringing together the people on the island, North and South, to establish a 32-county socialist republic? I firmly believe you have to take off the mask and go out there among the people and start that job.”
McGlinchey was an admirer and supporter of Martin McGuinness but when he and Gerry Adams persuaded republicans to endorse policing in 2007 he quit Sinn Féin. “It was too much to stomach.”
The son of Dominic and Mary McGlinchey, he was 16 and with his father when he was gunned down in Drogheda in 1994; aged 9 when his mother was shot in Dundalk in 1987 just after she had bathed him and his brother Declan. He and his brother after the killings of his mother and father were raised respectively in grandparental homes in Toomebridge, Co Antrim, and Bellaghy, Co Derry.
Dominic and Mary McGlinchey were leaders in the Irish National Liberation Army (INLA), both ruthless and even labelled as psychopathic, with his father being called “ Mad Dog” McGlinchey, but he rejects that depiction. What he strongly suspects is that six months before the 1994 IRA ceasefire Dominic McGlinchey was killed to “facilitate the peace process”. Those responsible, he contends, were one of three groups: the IRA, British military intelligence or people acting for the Irish government.
He’ll talk about his parents but first, and with a degree of circumspection, he wants to speak about dissident republican paramilitaries and how he feels they must engage in a debate about whether now is the time to call a halt to the violence.
We meet in Tuam, Co Galway, where 37-year-old McGlinchey is now living with his wife and three children. We speak for several hours over two days and he is cautious in his comments, elliptical by times, because he says you “need to be careful because it is very dangerous out there”.
The danger he refers to can come from inside the dissident republican movement from people who won’t like what he is saying and, he believes, possibly from some outside dark forces as well – what Gerry Adams would describe as “securocrats”. But as he gradually opens up it becomes clear that behind all the qualifications he feels that the dissidents right now are going nowhere. He’s hard-headed but concedes that if dissidents – who no matter how weak are always capable of killing people – are not advancing their united Ireland cause by a single inch, then questions of morality as well as politics and paramilitarism come into play.
He feels compelled to get a debate going within the dissident organisations such as the “New IRA”, Óglaigh na hÉireann, Continuity IRA and the various sub-groups and factions.
“I would never get into telling people what they should or shouldn’t do but what I would say is that republicans need to have respect and compassion for other republicans,” he says. “Republicanism is a very honourable thing if done in an honourable way. We shouldn’t be dishonouring it by the mindless use of violence. There needs to be strategy behind it and an end result in mind.
“You need to explain to your people what that strategy is. Do you believe that you are going to drive the Brits into the sea? There is no sign of that happening. To resist has to be more than saying, ‘I can endure the most, I have enough in the tank, that I have this Irishness thing that you won’t beat me, that you can never beat the Irish’. There has to be more to it than that.