Connla Young: It's unclear if a back channel with the governments led to RNU statement

Ciara Cunningham, Paul Crawford and Gary McNally at at an RNU press conference Belfast in March 2013. Picture: Cliff Donaldson
Connla Young

Óglaigh na hÉireann was formed around a decade ago after a fallout within the Real IRA.

Since it became active it has carried out several high profile attacks on the security forces using a range of home-made and commercial weapons.

Its main centres of support have traditionally been in Derry, Belfast, south Down, south Armagh and north Louth.

In recent years it has haemorrhaged members while several key figures are currently behind bars both sides of the border.

It is not clear if RNU’s weekend statement was issued after consultation with members of the wider movement or if this is a top table initiative.

Based on what was said at the weekend it would appear evident that there has been a dramatic shift in the party’s long term strategy.

The RNU statements may form part of an evolving process, although it is not known if a back channel with the British or Irish governments is in place.

If the RNU statements point towards ONH giving up its armed campaign authorities on both sides or the border will want a process that sees its weapons put beyond use.

Republicans will no doubt seek a deal on prisoner release as part of any endgame.

If ONH eventually bow out how other republicans will react may vary.

Sinn Féin will view any move to stand down as vindication of their strategy while other hardline groups will see it as capitulation.

Although ONH have been fairly active at different times since its formation it is believed none of its attacks has resulted in a fatality.

In 2010 in claimed responsibility for seriously injuring Catholic PSNI constable Peader Heffron when a bomb detonated under his car near Randalstown in Co Antrim.

The same year it also claimed to have set off a bomb outside the headquarters of MI5 at Palace Barrack’s in Co Down which caused no casualties.

Several months later it detonated a bomb outside Strand Road PSNI station in Derry, again no-one was injured.

In 2012 it tried to kill an off duty British soldier in north Belfast using a booby trap bomb hidden in his car.

In November the following that year a car bomb left by the group at Victoria Square shopping centre in Belfast partially exploded.

Although it has been relatively inactive recently, in January the group claimed it tried to target police with a bomb left in Poleglass, which was later defused.

It has also been responsible other attacks on the PSNI and a high number of punishment shootings across Belfast.


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