Belfast Telegraph

Dissidents ONH carried out 'extreme violence' against own communities: PSNI

The PSNI has said dissident republican group Oglaigh na hEireann (ONH) was involved in "extreme violence" against its own communities.

It comes after the announcement of a ceasefire by ONH.

The group - made up of former members of the Provisional IRA - was responsible for dozens of punishment shootings and attacks on security forces.

In 2010, it was responsible for the attempted murder of Catholic police officer Peadar Heffron.

In a statement to the Irish News, the group stated: "at this time the environment is not right for armed conflict.

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

The PSNI's assistant chief constable in charge of crime operations Stephen Martin saying the 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".

"Our communities do not want to live in fear of violence and my challenge to ONH is to meet people’s expectations and cease using violence immediately. This includes all types of organised criminality within communities," he said.

"The group has announced it is to suspend all actions against the ‘British State’, however, for years now, members have been heavily involved in extreme violence against people living in their own communities, including carrying out brutal beatings and shootings, as well as menacing acts of intimidation to create fear and control.  These vicious attacks must also be consigned to the past.  It will be deeds that count ultimately, not words."

He said his thoughts were with "with those who suffered, often most grievously, at the hands of ONH over the last decade". 

Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams has welcomed the announcement.

Mr Adams said he thanked trade unionists and community leaders involved in bringing about the action, and welcomed the end of the violent campaign.

"There can be no excuse or justification for the continued existence and operation of armed groups either unionist or republican," he said.

"Their continued existence leads only to hardship, loss, bereavement and imprisonment.

"There is a peaceful and democratic way forward to resolve political differences and to work towards an agreed and united Ireland.

"Meaningful change will only be advanced through commitment to political and democratic programmes and full participation in the peace process."

He also called for all groups still engaged in violent actions to "desist, disband and to embrace the path of peaceful politics".

SDLP leader Colum Eastwood called for all dissident republican groups to "bow to the will of the Irish people".

"Today’s announcement is also an opportunity for all the other fractures of dissident republican organisations to end their so called ‘campaigns’," he said.

Irish Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney also welcomed the announcement.

"There is no place and no justification for violence and I call on all other dissident groups to follow suit. We hope and anticipate that this ceasefire will be proven to be definitive and comprehensive in word and in deed," he said.

In April last year, the group hinted that a permanent ceasefire could be on the horizon following the annual Easter commemorations in north Belfast by the Republican Network for Unity (RNU) - widely considered to be the political wing of the Oglaigh na hEireann.

At the event, former national chairperson of the RNU Gary McNally said: "Sticking to handed down narratives and continuing to pursue failed or failing ventures in the hope of remaining relevant is accelerating irrelevancy."

Former DUP Policing Board member Keith Buchanan MLA said: “The statement by Óglaigh na hÉireann (ONH) is further demonstration of the futility of terrorism.  I’m glad that those in the paramilitary leadership of that organisation have recognised that violence will not triumph over democracy.

"Today our minds should turn to the innocent victims that this organisation has made through its brutal campaign.

"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 anti-social elements, not down back allies with self-appointed judge, jury and executioners.

"Those who still justify and eulogise terrorism from yesteryear only serve to cause confusion for the next generation.  Terrorism was wrong in 1970s and it is wrong today.  There was never any justification.

"Just as our security services were able to disrupt the terrorists of twenty years ago, I suspect ONH was feeling the impact of our security services.  I commend those who have bravely challenged the terrorists and disrupted their activities.”

Belfast Telegraph Digital

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