Coveney calls on all dissidents to declare ceasefire

Óglaigh na hÉireann announces it is suspending ‘all armed actions against British state’

Óglaigh na hÉireann was formed in 2009 after it splintered from the Real IRA. It was led by the recently imprisoned republican Seamus McGrane. Photograph: Press Eye

Óglaigh na hÉireann was formed in 2009 after it splintered from the Real IRA. It was led by the recently imprisoned republican Seamus McGrane. Photograph: Press Eye

 

Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney has called on all dissident organisations to cease paramilitary actions after a ceasefire announcement by republican group Óglaigh na hÉireann (ONH).

The group said on Tuesday that it was suspending “all armed actions against the British state” with immediate effect.

The announcement came following what ONH described as an internal review over the “future of republican struggle”. The group’s statement did not mention ONH disbanding.

“While ONH accept that the right of the Irish people to use armed, disciplined force to end the violation of Irish national sovereignty is unquestionable, our review has concluded that at this time the environment is not conducive to armed conflict,” it added.

The announcement was made at a press conference in Belfast by trade unionist Peter Bunting, Fianna Fáil TD Éamon Ó Cuív and Derry community development worker Conal McFeely, who were involved in brokering the ceasefire.

Mr Bunting said the decommissioning of ONH weapons was not part of their discussions and was “something for the future”.

He said talks with ONH had been going on for more than two years and that he and his colleagues were willing to similarly engage with other dissident groups.

“There are other occasions when we talk to other people,” said Mr Bunting.

Mr Coveney said “there is no place and no justification for violence and I call on all other dissident groups to follow suit”.

Bomb attacks

ONH was formed in 2009 after it splintered from the Real IRA. It was led by the recently imprisoned republican Seamus McGrane who organised that breakaway. It was involved in numerous gun and bomb attacks, although it is believed it was not directly responsible for any killings.

The group carried out the 2010 under-car bombing which seriously injured PSNI officer Peadar Heffron. In the same year it was blamed for a car bomb attack on the British army’s Palace Barracks in Hollywood, Co Down which houses MI5’s headquarters in Northern Ireland.

In 2009 it was involved in a failed 400lb car bomb attack on the headquarters of the North’s Policing Board in Belfast.

The organisation was mainly based in Belfast, with a smaller membership along the north Louth/south Armagh Border and in Derry and Strabane.

Its effectiveness was seriously undermined after McGrane was arrested in 2015. The 63-year-old from Dromiskin, Co Louth was sentenced last year by the Special Criminal Court to 11½ years in prison for directing terrorism.

Targeted by the PSNI and MI5 in the North and the Garda in the South, ONH had come under great pressure in recent years and was also believed to be heavily infiltrated by informants.

While at one stage it was reckoned to have a membership of about 200, many of them former Provisional IRA members with bomb-making experience, total membership is now estimated by security sources to be about 50.

Impact

British and Irish security services will watch to see if this has any impact on the other two main dissident groups, the New IRA and the Continuity IRA.

The chief dissident threat is from the New IRA, an amalgamation of the Real IRA, Republican Action Against Drugs and dissident republicans operating more independently. The Continuity IRA is viewed as a lesser threat, having split into different factions.

Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams said “there can be no excuse or justification for the continued existence and operation of armed groups, either unionist or republican”.

PSNI assistant chief constable Stephen Martin said while the group was suspending operations against the “British state”, that “for years now, members have been heavily involved in extreme violence against people living in their own communities, including carrying out brutal beatings and shootings, as well as menacing acts of intimidation to create fear and control”.

SDLP leader Colum Eastwood said the announcement was “long overdue” and called on other dissident groups “to end their so-called campaigns”.