INLA's political wing wants end of `armed struggle'

 

The small political party associated with one of the most extreme republican terrorist groups, the Irish National Liberation Army (INLA), has called on it and all other republican groups to end "armed struggle".

The Irish Republican Socialist Party (IRSP) said that in the aftermath of the acceptance of the Belfast Agreement in this year's referendum, there was "now no basis for armed struggle". The party is understood to have issued the statement in response to Saturday's bomb attack in Omagh by another dissident republican group.

There have been indications in the past month that sections of the INLA, especially in Belfast and Derry, supported the idea of a ceasefire. However, it is understood other elements of the organisation, which may be based in the Dundalk area, were opposed.

Members of the INLA in Dundalk are said by Garda sources to be fraternising with the dissident republicans suspected of carrying out Saturday's attack in Omagh.

In a statement last night, the IRSP said: "Following the referendum, the leadership of the IRSP has been considering the implications of that vote. It is well known that we opposed the Good Friday Agreement on the grounds that it fell short of republican socialist objectives.

"We campaigned for a No vote. Since the referendum, we have been engaged in consultations with many agencies and individuals and have come to the following conclusions: We now accept that in the light of the referendum and the clearly expressed wishes of the people on this island there is now no basis for the continuation of the armed struggle by Irish republicans.

"In the light of the referendum result, the IRSP are pledged to continue to strive towards our goal of a socialist republic by internationally recognised political activity, therefore, we call on the Irish National Liberation Army, who we know have been considering a ceasefire, to reach a decision quickly.

"We also call on all other republican groups to accept that there is now no basis for armed struggle and to desist now."

The statement was welcomed by the Northern Ireland Secretary of State, Dr Mo Mowlam.

The INLA has had a history of internal feuding and extreme violence virtually since its foundation in 1975 by the former Official IRA figure, Seamus Costello. Mr Costello himself was shot dead by the Official IRA in 1977, and since then there have been four major internal feuds.

The INLA was itself responsible for a number of significant atrocities in the North. One of its bombs killed 17 off-duty soldiers and civilians in the Droppin Well pub, outside Limavady, Co Derry, in 1987. In November 1983 an INLA gang machinegunned the Pentacostalist hall at Darkley in south Armagh, killing three and injuring several others. The INLA was also responsible for killing the Conservative Party's spokesman on Northern Ireland, Mr Airey Neave, in a booby-trap car bombing at the House of Commons in 1979.

The group had a reputation for reckless acts of violence, and a number of children were killed in its attacks, the last being Barbara McAlorum (9), shot dead in Belfast during one of its internal feuds in 1995.