Current Affairs Military Politics

Dissent In The Ranks?

A Volunteer of the Real Irish Republican Army (RIRA) armed with an AKM assault rifle, British Occupied North of Ireland

According to a piece by Henry McDonald in the Belfast Telegraph the Resistance Republicans of CIRA, RIRA and ÓnaÉ (who remain committed to the policy of a military resistance to the continued British Occupation in the north-east of Ireland) may be witnessing a fracturing in their organisations coupled with a change of strategy and tactics.

“Don’t say it too loud, but in the second half of 2011 the disparate factions of anti-ceasefire republicanism have been relatively quiet.

So does this inaction reflect recent successes for the security forces? Or does the lack of armed activities since the murder of Constable Ronan Kerr (below) in April suggest a revision, or a rethink, in the strategies of the Continuity IRA, Real IRA or Oghlaigh na hEireann?”

I believe he means Óglaigh na hÉireann (by the by, the abbreviation of Óglaigh na hÉireann is ÓnaÉ – not ONH or ONE. The rules of the English language do not apply in the Irish language). But to continue:

“In terms of the first question, the most obvious place to look at is the Republic and, in particular, Dublin. Across the Republic’s capital, at least two of the hardline republican groups are engaged in diversionary struggles both among themselves and with criminal gangs in the city.

The Continuity IRA in Dublin insists it remains united, but there is a breakaway grouping which also has a base in Limerick city that is engaged in a shooting war with its larger rival.

This splintering has recently spread north into Maghaberry jail, with five republican inmates moved out of the main house holding dissident prisoners.

Their departure – under threat of death – is being linked to the battle between the CIRA and former colleagues. Given what we know about the often amoral and manipulative nature of the security forces’ secret ‘war’ against armed republican factions, it is not too fanciful to find the origins of this latest feuding as the work of agent provocateurs in the pay of the state.”

There seems little doubt that the situation in the Continuity Irish Republican Army (CIRA), the oldest of the breakaway Resistance Republican organisations, is fairly dire, both politically and militarily. The compromising of the group’s integrity and independence through the close association of certain members with Irish criminal gangs (in Limerick, Dublin and Belfast) has led to a slow downward spiral into internal anarchy. It is difficult now to state with any certainty who exactly is or isn’t a member of CIRA, since so many have assumed the title as a flag of convenience for gangland activities. Repeated splits within the ranks have been matched by those in the political party closest to it, Sinn Féin Poblachtach (Republican Sinn Féin or SFP/RSF), with two rival factions claiming legitimacy (and supremacy).

Guard Of Honour At Funeral Of RIRA Volunteer, The British Occupied North Of Ireland

While agents of the Irish and British states have undoubtedly contributed to the continued (and growing) weakness of the CIRA, there is little doubt that the biggest factor is the “criminalisation” of the organisation by its own members and those on the fringes of it. This has been coupled with the inherent weaknesses and contradictions of the organisation’s core beliefs and its self-destructive refusal to accept the contemporary nation state of Éire / Ireland as the successor state of the 1916-1923 Irish Republic. These two things, more than anything else, have crippled it since birth and made its decline inevitable.

Meanwhile in the Real Irish Republican Army (RIRA):

“In an interview with the Real IRA back in the early autumn, amid bellicose threats to bankers and the banking system, there was a telling comment on the internal debate ongoing within all strands of dissident republicanism.

The Real IRA representative revealed that there were discussions about the future, including the efficacy of the ‘armed struggle’.

There was a passing remark that some were arguing for a more economically-driven campaign against strategic capitalist targets like the banks – a kind of Irish Baader-Meinhoff-style of Leftist terrorism for the 21st century.

Those advocating such a departure are clearly hoping to capitalise on the widespread hatred directed at the banks and other capitalist institutions on the island.

This is why the Real IRA admitted a few months ago that it targeted the Santander bank in explosions at Derry and Newry this year as it seeks to identify itself with growing anti-capitalist sentiment.

It is difficult to determine if one representative from only one of the disparate factions was accurately reflecting the mixed state of thinking within dissident republicanism.”

It is indeed difficult to determine the (disparate) thinking of Resistance Republicans and I believe more is being read into these remarks than was intended. While undoubtedly some activists within the RIRA hanker back to a more left-wing style of socialist republicanism, the recent series of attacks on banks in the Occupied North of Ireland were driven just as much by a strategy of hitting relatively easy targets as any anti-capitalist propagandising. For a minimum investment in personnel, equipment, munitions and risk of failure (capture or death), RIRA received a maximum gain in publicity, disruption, and sheer inconvenience and harassment of the British or bilateral regional administrations in the North of Ireland.

RIRA Colour Party, The British Occupied North Of Ireland

It is the inability to launch direct military operations against the British Occupation Forces or their installations in the north-east which hampers the would-be armed struggle of RIRA (or indeed CIRA and ÓnaÉ) not ideological or political considerations (though, as with CIRA, the criminalisation of the increasingly porous edges of the organisation are one “financial” consideration that does seem to be gaining weight).

Yet, when it comes to “fighting the Brits”, the reality for most Resistance Republicans is this: if they could do it they would do it.

At the moment they cannot. However, as we have seen many times before in Irish history, that moment will pass.

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