So the (Continuity) Irish Republican Army is making minor headlines again following the publication of several rather indistinct photos on the Facebook Page of Republican Sinn Féin, the guerilla grouping’s political wing, showing two armed Volunteers posing in various locations around Kilwilkie, a sprawling housing estate in the town of Lurgan. This largely Nationalist enclave in north Armagh was the focus of an intense British military presence during the latter years of the 1966-2005 conflict, notably with the assassination of the human rights lawyer Rosemary Nelson in 1999 by UK-backed terrorists linked to the RUC, or paramilitary police. In recent times it has become the epicentre of a somewhat desultory insurgency campaign by various small republican organisations including the (C)IRA, the (N)IRA and ÓnaÉ. This is hardly surprising given that unemployment and poverty remain endemic in a region that has seen few if any of the material benefits of the Irish-British “Peace Process” of the last two decades.
Putting aside the obvious fact that Britain’s rump colony in the north-east of the country will always be a source of violent confrontation until it is banished to the pages of history like its medieval-born original (aka. taking the British guns out of Irish politics) one can observe several things about the photos. In the images both individuals are wearing civilian clothes, both are masked – albeit one in a somewhat haphazard manner – and both are carrying weapons. The figure to the left seems to be carrying an UZI submachine gun while his companion on the right looks to be armed with an AK-47 variant (I can’t see a front-sight on the weapon which is odd). Both are wearing clearly recognisable items of clothing, notably their distinctive runners, which is just about the opposite of covertness. They may well find themselves sitting in a PSNI or police interview room in the near future with a pair of shoes in an evidence-bag sitting on the table in front of them (unless of course the clothes are a deliberate act of misdirection or they have been forensically disposed of – which would give the (C)IRA far more intelligence than I would credit them with).
Another thing to note, of course, is which (C)IRA grouping are we talking about? Last I counted there were three rival factions of the guerilla micro-force, though admittedly the outer reaches of the broad republican movement don’t exactly hold my attention (and you can’t get much more outer than Republican SF, a party that contains some honest people serving a “legitimist” cause long since left behind by the tide of history, and long since contaminated by factionalism and criminality). Whatever the organisation the images highlight once again the military weakness of the would-be Republican Resistance, not its strength. 2015 is not 1985 or 1975.