West Belfast Sinn Féin Sinn Féin -- Building an Ireland of Equals

Dissident Actions are pointless, futile and counter-productive

Published: 31 March, 2009

Following recent incidents, including the shootings in Antrim and Craigavon, Sinn Féin Belfast Chairperson Bobby Storey writes in the West Belfast News about the groups involved and gives a background to their activities.

There are a large number of tiny, micro-groups, who all claim to be republican but by their actions, are clearly not.

Some have been around for over 20 years but most are recent. They include : INLA; CIRA; RIRA; ONH; IRLA; Saor Uladh; Saor Eire, and so it runs on.

When you look at the activities of these groups over a prolonged period of time nobody has been able to articulate any political, moral, strategic or other reason for what they are doing.

On the contrary they have no popular support, no strategies and no programmes which can in any way advance the core republican goal of a United Ireland.

In addition there is substantial evidence linking all of these groups to criminality; grudge attacks; killings; contract shootings; robberies; tiger-kidnappings; the importing and dealing of drugs; and the extortion of drug dealers.

The community, individual business people, local residents and victims have all testified to this.

There are many examples of this.

CIRA was paid £10,000 in a contract to punish 2 criminals who had been involved in a robbery. INLA and CIRA had been heavily involved in extortion from local business people, for amounts up to £20k.

DRUG DEALING

A leading dissident living in Spain, and a member of a well known west Belfast crime gang, arranged for a petty drug dealer to import into Belfast 120 kilos of drugs. The CIRA, with whom the dissident is linked, then extorted £90k from the drug courier / dealer.

One serious consequence of this is that these drug dealers then seek to expand their efforts within our community to pay off these groups.

At Casement Park, a JCB was destroyed by CIRA in an attempt to extort money from a businessman involved in carrying out renovations at the site. And there is more.

SELF-SERVING

Why are there so many of these micro groups, and why are they involved in criminal activity?

Because these groups revolve around personalities and cliques, not politics or ideology. Their interests are self-serving - not political.

For example, the CIRA split in Belfast and some of them joined the RIRA. A further split resulted in the establishment of the IRLA. And then members of the RIRA formed another group called ONH. In all of these examples the groups involved number no more than a handful of people.

One example of how these groups split and sub divide into even smaller groups is the IRLA. One of its members gave evidence in court about an internal feud which had resulted in two deaths, including one man beaten to death with a spade. The same individual, who gave state evidence, then went on to form his own group called 'Saor Uladh'.

All of this is reminiscent of the INLA/IPLO splits and feuds of the 1980s.

If all of this wasn't so serious, it would be akin to a Monty Python style 'Life of Brian' series of groups.

In addition, crossover in membership between these groups is common. But these groups also publicly and privately disown members as expedience demands.

What has any of this got to do with republicanism and achieving a united Ireland? Absolutely nothing.

ANTI-PEACE PROCESS

In reality, the only objectives they all share are a desire to destroy the peace process and undermine the Sinn Féin strategy to achieve a United Ireland.

If there are some within these micro groups who are republican, then there is a responsibility on them to stop these criminal actions. They need to take a stand against crime. If they are not prepared to do this they should leave the groups to which they belong.

It is also generally accepted and understood that all of these groups are heavily infiltrated by British intelligence.

In the same way, that we can look back now at loyalist groups and feuds and see the role which British agents have played in that, I have no doubt that in years to come we will be able to look back at these micro groups and see the same sinister influences at work.

The reality is that the actions of these groups are futile, purposeless, pointless, a waste of life and a waste of freedom.

SINN FEIN SUCCESSES

Republicans are right to debate strategy and tactics.

I uphold the right of others to disagree with Sinn Fein strategy but that means they have to articulate their alternative.

There is always a dynamic of debate within the wider republican family. This is sharpest inside Sinn Féin structures. What is in no doubt is the success of the Sinn Féin strategy.

There are now more republican activists and elected Sinn Féin representatives across the island of Ireland today than at any time since partition.

In 1994 Sinn Féin had just over 90,000 votes in Ireland, north and south, at the European election. At the last election, one third of a million people in Ireland voted for Sinn Féin.

At different times, some activists have been challenged by developments in the implementation of our strategy. Some people may have felt that these other micro groups were the way forward. They are not.

There is space for everyone in the republican struggle. What there is no space for are those who would bring the republican struggle into disrepute or would subvert our efforts to achieve the republican goal of a United Ireland.