Belfast Telegraph

Apologise, ex-bomber tells ceasefire dissidents Oglaigh na hEireann

By Eamon Sweeney

A former republican bomber has urged a dissident group that declared a ceasefire yesterday to now decommission and apologise.

Oglaigh na hEireann (ONH), which at one point tried to blow up the Co Down-based headquarters of MI5, has said it is ending its campaign of violence because the environment is not right for armed conflict.

The group was also behind the attempted murder of Catholic police officer Peadar Heffron in January 2010.

In a statement, the group said: "While ONH accept that the right of the Irish people to use armed disciplined force to end the violation of Irish national sovereignty is unquestionable, our review has concluded that, at this time, the environment is not conducive to armed conflict.

"Therefore the leadership of ONH are announcing that with immediate effect we will suspend all armed actions against the British state."

However, Shane Paul O'Doherty, a former Provisional IRA bomber who sought forgiveness from his victims, said: "With decommissioning, apologies and assurances of good behaviour in the future, they could be released on licence whereby they would still be available to serve their sentences if they re-offend.

"It's a pity that the victims of paramilitary organisations don't get second chances like this.

"Why do republicans always have to claim victory and say they are unbowed and unbroken? Why not recognise their civil and human rights violations and decommission and say, 'We apologise, we're sorry'.

"Go out with a shred of integrity," he said.

The announcement was given a cautious welcome across the political spectrum.

DUP MLA Keith Buchanan said the statement was a "further demonstration of the futility of terrorism".

"Our minds should turn to the innocent that this organisation has made through its brutal campaign," he said.

"I trust that this statement will also mean the end of all the ONH so-called punishment attacks. The police and our courts are the forum to deal with ant-social elements, not down back alleys with self-appointed judge, jury and executioners."

Outgoing Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams said a united Ireland can be resolved in a "peaceful and democratic way".

He said: "There can be no excuse for the continued existence and operation of armed groups.

"Their continued existence leads only to hardship, loss, bereavement and imprisonment. I call on all groups engaged in violent actions to desist, disband and to embrace the path of peaceful politics."

Ulster Unionist justice spokesman Doug Beattie said the announcement should not result in any concessions to ONH nor a "softer" prison regime for its members. "It's been coming a long time. They had no support and violent groups have no legitimacy whatsoever," he said. "But it will be interesting to see how this ceasefire develops. Will they now completely dismantle their structures and decommission their weapons?"

SDLP leader Colum Eastwood said the statement must "lead to the permanent position of pursuing politics through solely peaceful means". He said: "The violence of ONH targeted the Irish people. Peadar Heffron was an Irish police officer serving all the people across the North, yet ONH were behind his attempted murder in 2010.

"Violence has only ever led to the hardening of hearts and the filling of graveyards."

Alliance deputy leader Dr Stephen Farry warned that the statement from the dissident grouping didn't actually renounce violence and therefore must be viewed sceptically.

"The ongoing threat from dissident republican elements remains severe and must continue to be taken extremely seriously," he said.

PSNI Assistant Chief Constable Stephen Martin said the ceasefire declaration "indicates that some violent dissident republicans are at last starting to recognise that violence is not a bargaining chip for peace in today's society".

He said as well as its ceasefire, ONH must also end its campaign of paramilitary beatings, shootings and intimidation.

"These vicious attacks must also be consigned to the past. It will be deeds that count ultimately, not words," he said.

Belfast Telegraph

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