One of the most senior figures behind the Provisional IRA’s campaign has accused dissident republicans of being on a road to nowhere — and of having “a dead-end goal”.
Writing in relaunched republican newspaper An Phoblacht, Bobby Storey puts a number of direct questions to dissident groups, including the Real IRA.
Storey was writing before the widespread eruption of violence in parts of Belfast this week, much of which has been blamed on dissident elements. “Who is pulling your strings?” he asks — inferring security services infiltration.
“Whose interest are the actions of these (dissident) groups serving?” he writes.
The Belfast republican was linked by senior security sources to a number of the IRA’s so-called “spectacular” attacks, and was believed to be the organisation’s director of intelligence.
Special Branch believes he masterminded the burlary at its offices at Castlereagh in March 2002, when highly sensitive intelligence documents were stolen.
It was the most embarrassing security breach in a decades-long conflict.
“Bobby was the man who instigated it and brought it about,” a Special Branch source said at the time.
The source described the break-in as “Storey’s MO (modus operandi)”, adding: “The IRA has the documents.”
At the time the west Belfast republican was arrested, but released without charge. Now, after the formal ending of the IRA armed campaign, he is one of a number of senior figures to have stepped into a political role as Sinn Fein’s Belfast chairman.
In An Phoblacht, he writes: “The IRA carried out an effective, sustained military campaign against British forces with the active support of republican communities — with large numbers of disciplined volunteers and a level of international support and financial backing that will not be forthcoming in today’s circumstances.
“So how is a much smaller military force, lacking the strength, skills, discipline and support the IRA had, going to achieve more than the IRA?
“These groups need to understand that there is zero chance of drawing significant numbers of people back into conflict,” he writes.
Dissident activity — including the attacks on Newry courthouse, Palace Barracks and Newtownhamilton PSNI base — has been at its highest level for more than a decade, since the bombing campaign which marked the emergence of the Real IRA in 1998.
But Storey believes these attacks will achieve nothing.
“These groups openly admit that they have no chance of achieving an end to Partition by their armed actions,” he writes.
“Their stated goal is to ‘prevent normalisation’ in the six counties. In other words, they are openly aiming for remilitarisation — for repression, for the closure of democratic space and for an end to the process of transforming the PSNI — so that a slightly broader number of people will be drawn into armed activity with all of its associated costs.
“And then what?” he asked.
“To this question they have no answer. This is no justification for any loss of life, and for the destruction of other lives through imprisonment.
“It is a huge price to be paid for such a narrow, dead-end goal.”