21 July 2005

‘IRA will not split’

Daily Ireland

By Conor McMorrow

A leading Queen’s University academic and author of books on the IRA maintains that members of the Provisional movement will not defect to dissident groupings after the forthcoming IRA statement.
Professor Richard English said a positive statement would be truly historic and rank alongside Eamon de Valera’s moves in the 1920s.
In recent weeks, particularly around the Twelfth, there has been a marked increase in dissident republican activity across the North.
Daily Ireland revealed last week that the Continuity IRA was responsible for throwing blast bombs during the riots at Ardoyne shops in north Belfast on July 12.
However, Professor English, author of Armed Struggle: The History of the IRA, said: “When mainstream Irish republican organisations end their violence, there is always a danger that some of their former members will carry on violence in other groups, but the Provisional movement has been very successful at keeping republicans on side with its peace process initiatives, and I think the same will happen here,” he said.
“Some volunteers may defect but there will not be sufficient numbers or sufficient support to make dissident groups able to act at the kind of level at which the Provos used to operate militarily.”
Professor English added: “Any statement which genuinely signifies the end of the Provisional IRA violence will be truly historic. It will rank alongside the significance of the kind of move made by de Valera in the 1920s or the ceasefire declaration of 1994.
“What happens next has tended to fall just below what unionists want, and I suspect that — in the short term at least — that might happen again now. In other words, even a significant IRA statement might still leave us in political stalemate for the present.”
Professor English, who also wrote Ernie O’Malley: IRA Intellectual, said a positive statement from the IRA in the coming weeks would see republicanism move in a new direction.
“There’s no doubt that republicans have been able to achieve things after the ceasefires which they would not have achieved if the armed struggle was still ongoing. In this sense, republicanism has already gained much from the shift towards more conventional politics,” he said.
“For example, in terms of the kind of votes Sinn Féin now win, there have been great gains. A final ending of the IRA’s violence will allow for the further broadening of this support base, since there are many nationalists who would not vote for the political wing of a movement still killing 50 people a year who might well vote for a post-IRA Sinn Féin.”
The academic concluded: “International conditions are also worth considering. Just as the attacks of 9/11 hastened the IRA’s first decommissioning gesture, so the context after the recent London bombs tends to point serious political movements away from violence.”

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