Northern Ireland news

ÓNH decommissioning 'not on table at this stage'

Veteran trade unionist Peter Bunting announcing the ÓNH's ceasefire

ÓGLAIGH na hÉireann (ÓNH) have no immediate plans to decommission their weapons, it confirmed yesterday as the dissident republican group's ceasefire was publicly announced.

The Irish News first revealed that the organisation responsible for a series of high-profile attacks since 2009 - including the attempted murder of Catholic police officer Peadar Heffron - has decided to "suspend all armed actions against the British state".

The move was later confirmed at a press conference in Belfast involving public figures who helped broker the ceasefire.

A statement by the group said it had held discussions with members and concluded that "at this time the environment is not right for armed conflict".

Veteran trade unionist Peter Bunting was part of a delegation that had met ÓNH members over the past two years.

He was accompanied yesterday by Fianna Fail TD Éamon Ó Cuív, a grandson of former taoiseach and president Éamon de Valera, and Derry community development worker Conal McFeely.

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The trio said "no police officer, prison officers or military personnel will be targeted" again by the dissident group.

However, Mr Bunting said decommissioning was not yet part of ÓNH's plans.

"That's something maybe for the future," he said.

He added that the possibility of decommissioning was "not on the table for talks at this stage at all".

Mr Ó Cuív, who has visited republican prisoners in jails on both sides of the border, said he was "confident" the ceasefire would stick and insisted the statement was "clear and unequivocal".

"I absolutely accept that when they say it's over, in any of my dealings I've had with them over many, many years with republicans, when they say it's over, it's over," he said.

Mr Bunting added that "violence is no solution to Northern Ireland or Ireland's problems".

"This island can only go forward in a spirit of togetherness, Protestant, unionist, Catholic, dissenter, everyone on the basis of peace and justice for all," he said.

Mr McFeely also said the announcement marks an end to the group's involvement in violence.

"This actually means there will be no more targeting of PSNI officers, no more targeting of prison officers, no more bombs in Derry or Belfast," he said.

"This campaign is over. That can only be a good thing."

The first hint of a possible ceasefire came last April when Republican Network for Unity (RNU), which is viewed as ÓNH's political wing, used an Easter commemoration address in north Belfast to signal a shift in strategy.

Former republican prisoner Gary McNally said "a strategic rethink is required from both the individual republican activist and organisational republicanism".

ÓNH was at one time the most active of the dissident groups, carrying out numerous bombings and shootings.

High-profile attacks included a 400lb bomb left at the headquarters of the Policing Board in Belfast and a 120lb device at MI5 headquarters at Palace Barracks in Holywood, Co Down.

As well as the attack which seriously injured Mr Heffron in 2010, the group targeted a police dog handler in east Belfast with an under-car bomb the following year.

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