Militant faction claims it has taken over leadership of CIRA

 

A MILITANT Northern-based faction within the Continuity IRA claims to have overthrown the leadership of the dissident Republican organisation.

Representatives of the self-styled new CIRA army council admitted the organisation could not mount a sustained campaign of violence at present, but would “take opportunities when they presented themselves” while in the meantime building up its paramilitary strength.

“We intend to consolidate as a new guerrilla movement, we intend to recruit, to train and to equip for a long struggle,” one of the “army council” representatives told The Irish Times. They said the CIRA, which last year murdered Constable Stephen Carroll and has been active since 1994, continued to view PSNI officers and other members of the British security forces as “legitimate targets”.

Four representatives of the CIRA “army council” gave an interview to The Irish Times on Monday. The representatives’ claims are in line with the expectations of security and intelligence sources that such a breakaway was imminent.

A senior source from Republican Sinn Féin, viewed as the political wing of the CIRA, responded: “We would see them [the purported new leadership] as just another splinter group that has broken away.”.

The CIRA members who spoke to The Irish Times however said the vast majority of its “volunteers” rejected what they described as the “old guard” who were “tired, weary, old men who are refusing to hand over the reins”. “It is a takeover of the movement by the volunteers. It is a takeover of the military end of things,” said one spokesman.

The CIRA is separate from other dissident groups such as the Real IRA, although they have occasionally co-operated.

The spokesmen accused the purportedly ousted “army council” of effectively “running down” the CIRA. “They are not providing the volunteers with the required materials for them to do their job,” said one.

They said the new leadership was broadly representative of its membership, variously estimated at 150 – 200 active members, but that there were now more Northern “volunteers” on the “army council” whereas before only two of the seven were from the North.

One CIRA representative said in recent years there were “six or seven calls for an army convention” to be held to investigate allegations of “financial corruption” and other matters, but these calls “were thwarted”. Eventually, an “extraordinary army convention” was held in Bettystown in Co Meath in the early summer and a number of points were raised, including a claim that over £20,000 was “siphoned off” by one “prominent” dissident republican in Belfast.

The spokesmen said delegates at the convention represented 95 per cent of “volunteers” and that they unanimously elected a new 12-member ruling executive, which in turn appointed a new seven-member “army council”.