Splinter republican group eirigi is planning to run its first candidates in the next local government elections in Northern Ireland, it has emerged.
The breakaway socialist republican group envisages fielding up to half a dozen runners in targeted council areas including Belfast, Londonderry, Fermanagh and Armagh.
But it claims to have ruled out taking part in next year’s Westminster poll — due to the traditional republican boycott — and the Assembly elections as a result of more internationalist ideological predilections.
The group, still unregistered in Northern Ireland as a political party — though doing so is only a formality — claims to have 200 “activist” members who have had to endure a six-month recruitment process.
“They are not vetted as such but we take time to make sure their views will fit into eirigi’s vision,” spokesman Eamann Mac Manais told the Belfast Telegraph.
The party still has to deal with the issue of violence, having had to confirm that the two men charged in relation to the murders of Antrim soldiers Mark Quinsey (23) and Patrick Azimkar (21) were former members of the organisation.
Mac Manais admitted: “Certainly a lot of members involved come from a military background and make no apology for that. But there is no appetite for going back to armed struggle at the moment.”
But he argues that he sees no need for eirigi to formally distance itself from Continuity IRA and the Real IRA — and accepts the republican spectrum is dotted with other smaller groups like Republican Sinn Fein and the 32 County Sovereignty Movement.
“We did not leave Sinn Fein, Sinn Fein left us,” Mr Mac Manais argued.
“I think Sinn Fein was rushed into electoral politics too fast, we intend to take our time and if we decide in the end not to run candidates in 2011 there will not be any crying from the rooftops.”