Current Affairs Politics

Purging The Ranks

The funeral cortège of Alan Ryan, Officer Commanding the Dublin Brigade of the Real IRA, Dublin, Ireland, 2012

Well what is one to make of all this then?

The Irish news media is reporting that a close associate of the late Alan Ryan, widely believed to have been the Officer Commanding the Dublin Brigade of the Real Irish Republican Army, has been wounded in a so-called “punishment shooting” in Ballyfermot. Ryan was murdered last September in a gun attack by two hired assassins acting on behalf of Dublin’s powerful crime gangs in a response to the Real IRA’s violent attempts to “tax” criminal activity in the capital to fund the organisation and its renewed campaign of armed resistance in the Occupied North of Ireland. The circumstances of Alan Ryan’s death remain controversial following allegations that the open surveillance of the suspected Republican by Garda officers was withdrawn shortly before the fatal attack but his funeral garnered enormous publicity for the Real IRA – both good and bad.

According to the Irish Independent:

“The injured man sustained a gunshot wound to his right knee at Le Fanu Road, Ballyfermot, Dublin, at about 12.10am. Gardaí believe he was attacked by a number of men and that he may have been shot in a vehicle that then left the area.

He was taken by ambulance to St James’s Hospital, where his injuries are said not to be life-threatening. The man is in his 30s and is from Dublin city centre.

He was well known to key Real IRA member Alan Ryan, who was shot dead in north Dublin in September.

Gardaí are now trying to establish if the man shot yesterday was targeted by Real IRA members known to him, or criminal elements the Real IRA has been feuding with.”

The newspaper article goes on to claim that the shooting may stem from internal dissension within the Real Irish Republican Army. According to several reports and rumours doing the rounds the amalgamation of the Real IRA with several other Republican Resistance groups to form the “new” Irish Republican Army has led to an increased emphasis on politics and military discipline within the organisation as fears by some traditional Republicans of a descent into “narcoterrorism” have grown.

The leadership of the new movement is predominantly composed of northern-based veterans of the guerilla campaigns in the North of Ireland and some believe that it is now seeking to purge the alliance of the criminal fringe that has prospered around the edges of the Real IRA over the last five years. As part of this new sweep the Irish Central is reporting that the Sunday Times newspaper has published details of an alleged mass dismissal of over one hundred Volunteers or supporters from the “new” Irish Republican Army believed to have been involved in criminal activities or otherwise thought to be unreliable or potential security risks. Meanwhile speculation is growing that the leadership of the “new” IRA is attempting to put “clear blue water” between itself and Ireland’s criminal underworld, specifically the drug cartels.

During the height of the Long War the Provisional Irish Republican Army and Ireland’s mainly Dublin-based criminal organisations tended to avoid confrontation with each other. The Dublin Brigade of the Provisional IRA imposed a modest “taxation” on the crime gangs, occasionally upping the stakes to take a share in larger criminal enterprises, while limited co-operation occurred in the areas of cross-border smuggling and money laundering. Direct conflict was relatively unusual as the gangs rarely felt confident enough to oppose the insurgent organisation (or organisations). The notorious crime-lord Martin Cahill was an exception to this rule and ultimately paid for his activities (including seeking an alliance with the British Unionist terror groups in the north-east of the country) with his life.

However the slow descent into criminality by the outliers of the Republican Movement in the late 1980s and 1990s, in particular the rival factions of the Irish National Liberation Army (INLA) and it off-shoots, transformed the dynamic between the criminal underworld and the insurgent one. The crime gangs of Dublin no longer feared the Republican military organisations and became increasingly willing to seek confrontation, especially where areas of mutual interest butted up against each other.

Now the Irish crime scene is dominated by up to a dozen major drugs cartels in the cities of Dublin, Cork and Limerick who have no hesitation in using violence against any opponents, be they other criminals, innocent members of the general public or servants of the state. With a ready access to weapons, explosives, vast amounts of money and a steady stream of willing gang members any current Republican insurgency would find itself in a difficult situation tackling the powerful organised crime groups.

Claims and counter-claims instead focus on the “new” IRA moving away from confrontation with the drug gangs and establishing a “cold peace”. Whether this will include the continued “taxation” of criminal activities to support the armed resistance, albeit at “agreed levels” is debatable. Some believe that the nascent Republican Resistance would rather have access to the crime gangs’ apparent contacts in the European arms’ markets and smuggling routes than any amount of financial returns. However it is understood that Alan Ryan’s closet comrades have steadfastly opposed any shift in policy, especially one that prevents military action against those responsible for the slaying of their Dublin commander.

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