Belfast Telegraph

Dissident republicans Oglaigh na hEireann hint at permanent ceasefire

BY SEAN O'DRISCOLL

One of Northern Ireland's two dissident terror groups may be about to call a permanent ceasefire.

The political wing of Oglaigh na hEireann, which was responsible for dozens of punishment shootings and attacks on security forces, signalled at the weekend that it is ready to abandon violence.

The policy change came at the Republican Network for Unity's annual Easter commemoration in the Ardoyne in north Belfast on Sunday.

In a strongly worded speech, Gary McNally, a former republican prisoner, said that "for far too long" his strain of republicans have not been able to modernise and accept the situation on the ground.

"Sticking to handed down narratives and continuing to pursue failed or failing ventures in the hope of remaining relevant is accelerating irrelevancy. Wallowing in mediocrity created by this irrelevancy is sapping the integrity of the republican position," he said.

He was speaking as the former national chairperson of the RNU, widely considered to be the political wing of Oglaigh na hEireann.

"We recognise that we must move forward with our people, not without them and not ahead of them or eventually they will move forward without us," he warned. He began his speech by noting that Easter is a time for reflection.

"Rhetoric and cliches will not sustain us. Long-held slogans will not drive political development in the face of a changing political arena. Previous generations of republican activists... did not shirk the responsibility of bringing the republican struggle in line with their time," he said.

He acknowledged that the RNU had not been a success in the last local elections and that it was time to reflect on how to convince people that a united Ireland was a good idea.

"Irish republicans must provide a coherent vision of the future, what a united Ireland will look like, how it will benefit the Irish people as a whole and how we can achieve this. The window of opportunity has been made smaller by the latest election results. Republicans must begin the change this and widen the window," he said.

"Remaining in an isolated bubble detached from the real world and everyday struggles serves no purpose and advances no cause," he added.

Asked for clarification of the remarks, Nathan Stuart, the RNU's spokesman, acknowledged that his party is undergoing a major rethink.

"Republicans have been constrained by the notion that because one generation pursued a certain path that we must do the same," he said.

"We have debated the efficiency and effectiveness of this in 2017 and continuing along that path is simply making republicanism irrelevant to the majority," he said in a statement.

He said that some will continue along the old routine.

"Some will remain wedded to a strategy that has resulted in the isolation and the political quagmire we find ourselves in," he said.

Oglaigh na hEireann was formed in 2009 after Michael McKevitt and other imprisoned members of the Real IRA refused to recognise the new leadership. This new leadership broke away to form Oglaigh na hEireann, taking some of the Real IRA's weaponry with it.

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