INLA says armed struggle over

 

The INLA today announced an end to its 30-year campaign of republican violence in Northern Ireland.

The organisation responsible for some of the most infamous attacks of the Troubles used a graveside oration outside Dublin to confirm that its “armed struggle is over”.

A representative of the Irish Republican Socialist Party (IRSP) Martin McMonagle told the event: “The Republican Socialist Movement has been informed by the INLA that following a process of serious debate, consultation and analysis, it has concluded that the armed struggle is over.

“The objective of a 32 county socialist republic will be best achieved exclusively through political, peaceful means.”

He added that the grouping continued to oppose the Good Friday Agreement of 1998 as a platform for achieving Irish unity, but would restrict its opposition to the accord to purely peaceful means.

On the question of decommissioning INLA arms, however, the IRSP spokesman later added that there was no announcement on decommissioning to coincide with the statement.

He said the IRSP believed that INLA violence was at an end, but on the question of decommissioning added: “That would be a matter for the INLA.”

Confirmation that the splinter group, responsible for attacks such as the murder of Conservative MP Airey Neave in 1979, is to formally end its campaign comes as US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton today said violent republicanism has no support among Irish-Americans.

The Secretary of State left Britain today to hold a series of engagements in Dublin, before travelling to Belfast for talks with Stormont political leaders as they broker an historic deal that it is hoped will see republicans and unionists share responsibility for running the region’s justice system.

The INLA was formed in 1974 and was known as a brutally violent organisation that also engaged in bitter internal feuds.

In 1979 it claimed the life of Conservative Shadow Secretary for Northern Ireland Airey Neave, a close associate of Margaret Thatcher, who was killed when a boobytrap bomb exploded beneath his car at the House of Commons.

In 1982 the ruthless paramilitary group was responsible for one of the largest death tolls of the Troubles when it murdered 17 people,  including 11 soldiers and six civilians, in a bomb attack on the Droppin’ Well pub in Ballykelly, Co Londonderry.

The republican hunger strike of 1981 at the top security Maze prison saw ten men die, and while most were members of the IRA, three of the hunger strikers were drawn from the ranks of the INLA.

The group wound its campaign down in the 1990s in the aftermath of ceasefires by the IRA and the main loyalist groups, but it has continued to be involved in sporadic violence and criminal activity.

Despite the widespread condemnation of the armed group’s years of violence, today’s statement claimed it had “struck at the heart” of the British establishment.

It said the INLA had announced a no-first strike policy in 1994 and in 1998 called a complete ceasefire.

It added that the INLA had now confirmed the “armed struggle is over”, and added: “the republican socialist movement agree with this analysis and are fully supportive of the move to build a left-wing party that can secure the objective of a 32-county socialist republic based on the principles of equality, justice, inclusion, human rights and dignity.”

It said it continued to oppose the Good Friday agreement of 1998.

The peace deal that led to the formation of power-sharing government between nationalists and unionists, recognised the two states of Northern Ireland and the Republic Ireland, and therefore fell short of Irish unity.

The republican group said loyalist decommissioning was a “progressive step”.

Earlier this year the loyalist Ulster Volunteer Force decommissioned, while the loyalist Ulster Defence Association started to put its weapons beyond use.

The legislation that allows armed groups to dispose of their weaponry without fear of prosecution has only months to run and Government has said it will not renew it.

Any paramilitaries found in possession of weapons after that time face prosecution and imprisonment.

Despite the failure today to announce INLA decommissioning, there is continuing speculation that an announcement could be forthcoming.

PA