Spin doctors bid to rebrand dissidents as 'Residual Terrorist Group'
A new name has been dreamt up for dissident republicans, in an attempt to strip them of a perceived “status”.
The Northern Ireland Office wants to rebrand dissidents as Residual Terrorist Groups — or RTGs for short — but already the idea is meeting resistance among police officers.
A number of organisations, including the PSNI, have been told of the decision and are being encouraged to use the new term.
It is understood an email was sent to police officers in recent weeks telling them of the name change, but the PSNI has denied being under any pressure to enforce its usage among staff.
Sources within the police have said some officers are unhappy with the change, which has been described as “the talk of the force” since the email was sent.
Officers are said to be “incredulous” that they are being asked to adopt “politically correct jargon” for the same groups which pose a potentially lethal threat to them on a daily basis.
The move comes at a time when three officers are still recovering from injuries sustained in the Oglaigh na hEireann grenade attack last Friday night.
The Belfast Telegraph can reveal the name change was prompted by NIO officials who disliked the term “dissident republicans” because “it gives them a status that they intrinsically lack”.
A spokesman for the NIO said it was “important to try and get the language right”.
The term, which refers to groups as a leftover of the Troubles, has become popular in recent weeks.
Home Secretary Theresa May used it when talking about the bomb found in a car parked at Belfast International Airport, which she said had been placed there by “residual terrorist groups linked to Northern Ireland”.
Secretary of State Owen Paterson also used it after the last Independent Monitoring Commission report, saying the commission had “assessed that, with the exception of some residual terrorist groups, the leadership of paramilitary groups remain committed to the political process”.
The NIO spokesman said: “It’s not a technical term, it’s just to get a better way to describe them.
“It applies to the Northern Ireland context. We have never liked the term ‘dissident republicans’, the word ‘dissident’ could describe organisations in any country.
“The term ‘residual’ refers to those who have taken the decision to be left behind and reflect the past when everyone else has moved on,” he added.
He said the new name was being rolled out “across Govern
ment” in order that “we all have a similar understanding”.
But he was keen to downplay the name change, saying: “In terms of countering the real threat they pose, finding a way to describe them isn’t top priority.”
However, the new name hasn’t found favour with everyone.
DUP Policing Board member Jimmy Spratt slammed the term, saying it was an attempt to dilute the threat posed by dissidents.
“It’s some sort of sexy term that somebody has decided to use to try and tone down the gravity of the situation,” he said.
Referring to Oglaigh na hEireann, the dissident group behind a number of serious attacks recently, he said: “There is nothing residual about this organisation.
“This organisation are clearly hell-bent on murder and mayhem and that has been evidenced over the past number of attacks.
“No term should be used to try and diminish what they are capable of.”