The dissident terror group Oglaigh na hEireann has denied threatening the senior Belfast republican Seamus Finucane — brother of murdered solicitor Pat Finucane.
In a series of statements yesterday mainstream and dissident republicans engaged in an angry war of words.
At the heart of the story is the issue of community co-operation with the PSNI.
In recent days Oglaigh na hEireann warned it would not tolerate “acts of treachery” — meaning any information passed to police that could lead to the arrest of its members.
The statement did not name individuals, but the PSNI later warned Seamus Finucane, a one-time senior IRA figure now involved in community safety work in west Belfast, that his life was under threat.
He said he was treating the matter “very, very seriously”, and added that, by going public, he hoped it would provide him and other community workers with “a degree of security”.
Sinn Fein junior minister Gerry Kelly described the threat as “an absolute disgrace” and said it should be withdrawn.
He said the group calling itself Republican Network for Unity (RNU) should explain the actions of Oglaigh na hEireann.
“We are now told that Carl Reilly, who is the spokesperson for RNU, is saying that RNU are aligning themselves to this organisation,” Gerry Kelly said.
“Then let him come out and explain these actions to the people.”
Mainstream republican and security sources believe Reilly is a senior figure in Oglaigh na hEireann.
He is national chairperson of Republican Network for Unity.
Contacted by the Belfast Telegraph, Reilly said that last week RNU sent “comradely greetings” to Oglaigh na hEireann.
He said that did not mean RNU are the political wing.
“We don’t speak for or explain the actions of Oglaigh na hEireann,” he said.
“That is a matter for that organisation. RNU denounces any threat against any republican as it only plays into the hands of the British,” he said.
Speaking to reporters yesterday, Seamus Finucane explained that part of his role in community safety work is “to intervene on behalf of young people who are at risk from armed groups”.
“If this is the reason why I am being threatened, it will definitely not deter me from fulfilling my responsibility to the community,” he said.
He also called on Carl Reilly to explain the Oglaigh na hEireann threat, which he described as “very vague”.
An Oglaigh na hEireann leadership source told this newspaper: “This man is not under threat — never has been.
“And the question must be asked, why would Seamus believe that statement is directed towards him?”
But a mainstream republican source said a threat had been made against Seamus Finucane and that the source of that threat is known.