ANALYSIS: Some distance to go to a formal ONH ceasefire

Connla Young

The course being plotted by Óglaigh na hÉireann will take it through waters well travelled by other republican groups in recent times.

Sources close to the organisation say that while the journey has already started the route to a formal ceasefire – if that ever happens - has some distance to go.

According to sources the organisation is only between 45-50 percent of the way through discussions about its future and they are unable to put a time frame on when an end date may be in sight.

It could take at least a year before a conclusion is reached they say.

As with all negotiations obstacles can be placed in the way and insiders are aware there may be internal resistance, especially if some members perceive they are “losing face”.

While the group maintains no back channels with the British or Irish governments have been established, an approach was made to the organisation by a third party about 18 months ago by an individual offering to act as a go between.

This offer was rejected.

It is understood that ÓNH has also been receiving advice on its future direction from what have been described as “critical friends”.

Informed sources say there is “no appetite” to deal with other bodies - including the governments - as there is a belief that there is little to be gained.

While ÓNH may be in familiar waters for republicans - with both the Provisional IRA and INLA ending their campaigns in recent decades – there is an understanding that its bargaining power is reduced.

Any potential talks involving the governments - which have been ruled out - would almost certainly demand movement on weapons and disbandment of paramilitary structures.

A natural bargaining tool is the release of republican prisoners.

While there are currently some senior figures behind bars there are only two sentenced ÓNH-aligned prisoners in the north, with one expecting to be released in the near future.

With just one sentenced prisoner in Portlaoise, the issue of prisoner releases appears less likely to feature highly on any list of demands or be of use as an incentive by either of the governments.

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