'Real' Irish Republican Army (rIRA) Statement, 28 January 2003
[KEY_EVENTS] [Key_Issues] [Conflict_Background]
'Real' Irish Republican Army (rIRA) Statement, 28 January 2003
The following page contains a set of questions that were posed to a representative of the 'real' Irish Republican Army (rIRA; Óglaigh na hÉireann) and the written responses. The 16 questions were written by Damien Okado-Gough in his capacity as a reporter for the Derry-based Channel 9 TV news. The written reply was received on Tuesday 28 January 2003. Information about the exchange, and extracts from some of the written answers, was featured in the local media. However, the following page contains the full text of the questions and answers.
Question 1. The Provisional IRA recently claimed that the ‘real’ IRA can "articulate no coherent strategy", (An Phoblacht / Republican News, Sept 12, 2002). In light of this claim would you outline, in definitive form, your political objectives and your political and military strategies for achieving those objectives?
Answer 1a. Our ultimate objective remains the re-establishment of the Republic. The Belfast Agreement has been presented by the Provisional Movement as a transitional mechanism, or stepping stone, to eventual Irish unity and a 32-County Republic. We totally reject this claim and regard this Agreement as a negation of Irish democracy as it was build upon the premise of separate referenda. Remember the Six-County referendum had the power of veto over the 26-County one. We regard this as a copper fastening of partition and an acceptance of the Unionist veto by all participants. In addition, it is quite evident that the political administration that emerged in the Six-Counties after the Agreement represented nothing more than the institutionalization of sectarianism as both sides of the sectarian divide vied with each other for the crumbs from the Westminster table, European Union gravy train and corporate America. Any impartial observer will confirm that the levels of sectarian hatred and bitterness have escalated in the post-Agreement period. We also believe that the Agreement was falsely presented to the people as ‘the only show in town’, that those Republicans who opposed it offered only mayhem and violence whereas we simply remain steadfast in our allegiance to the principles and ideology for which our comrades and predecessors sacrificed so much. We remain convinced that no just and final political settlement can be arrived at between the Irish people and the people of Britain and between the Nationalist and the Unionist communities until the British military and political presence is totally removed from the equation. It is also important to point out that the political package enshrined in the Belfast Agreement had to be acceptable to and ratified by an external political power i.e. the British Government before it was even presented to the Irish people. We regard this as a blatant usurpation of the right of the Irish people to self-determination.
Question 2. What political, economic and/or social conditions are there in existence in the north of Ireland, which necessitate the use of political violence?
Answer 2. The Republican struggle was never about economic and social change within the Six-County state – it was about destroying that very state and getting the British out of Ireland. We believe that only then can the wider issues of social and economic change take place in a 32-County context. Partition in itself is a controlling factor in holding back change. The current perceived improvement in the Six-County state is not self-sustaining and is based on a shallow foundation of handouts from the European Union and corporate America as well as the annual financial subvention from Westminster. We are convinced that the future economic and social well-being of the people of the Six-Counties will never be realized or guaranteed until the people of that region are in the position to play their part fully and openly as equal partners in the Irish nation as a whole, to develop and build the Irish economy for the benefit of all its people. We do not regard this proposal as a vague utopian dream but as a realistic and common sense approach.
Question 3. What is your opinion on the present ‘peace process’ and the Belfast Agreement?
Answer 3. We all seek a genuine, just and lasting peace in Ireland and the resolution of our political differences. We believe that the so called ‘peace process’ is a misnomer and is grounded on a false premise that it is the road to a final settlement. We regard the implementation of the Belfast Agreement and the full participation of the Provisional Movement in that process as a classic example of a successful counter-insurgency strategy practiced on the part of the British and Dublin Governments. Remember the words of Seamus Mallon that the entire process was ‘an exercise in Sunningdale for slow learners’. We believe this assertion to be politically accurate and correct and in fact from a Nationalist perspective the 1998 Agreement was a much weaker package than that offered by the Sunningdale Agreement in 1973. Just ponder on the sacrifices made by the Provisional Movement and its supporters in the periods 1973-94 and 1996-98 including the deaths of the two volunteers in England. Now we must endure the nauseating spectacle of the Provisional leadership attempting to present the 1998 Agreement as an outstanding political breakthrough and victory. We totally reject this distortion of the truth and the sickening gimmickry and phoney pathetic attempts of that leadership to portray themselves as political innovators when in fact they are merely implementing SDLP policies which were formulated with the Dublin Government as far back as 1972. The war was not fought for seats in Stormont, on Councils nor indeed policing boards.
Question 4. It is now believed that the principle of consent has been accepted by the Provisional movement. How do you view the Unionists’ position on this island?
Answer 4. The Provisional Movement has accepted the Unionist veto but the Republican Movement has not. The Unionist community are an important part of the Irish people – we would encourage them to assert their position within the Irish nation and to articulate the needs of their people. They make up a very sizeable minority in Ireland but in the British context, they are very small and insignificant. We believe that the Unionist community are also the victims of British imperial and colonial history. It has to be borne in mind that they were used by the British in the past, armed and financed by them, to play the role of the colonial garrison. We hold the British Government to be the guilty party in this manipulative scenario. However, we have never forgotten the fact that the political roots of our ideology namely Irish Republicanism as distinct from Irish Nationalism lie with the Presbyterian dissenters of the 18th century. We would call upon the Unionist people to rekindle and embrace the radical, liberal political principles of their forefathers of 1798 and reject the narrow-minded sectarian mindset of some of their political leaders today. We remain convinced that gradually more people from a Unionist background are becoming disillusioned with their positions viz. a viz. the British Government, the United Kingdom in general and the subordinate and the subservient attitude to the British monarchy in particular. Hopefully, more of them will come to realize that their future political, social and economic well-being lies with them playing a full participatory role as an integral part of the Irish nation.
Question 5. In the statement mentioned above the Provisional IRA also claimed that you have ‘little or no support base’. Do you believe that your present support base is sufficient for you to successfully prosecute armed struggle both on the island of Ireland and in Britain?
Answer 5a. The Provisionals are now in the role of poacher turned gamekeeper. We distinctly remember Gerry Adams refer to Proinsias de Rossa who was then a member of the Workers Party in such terms in response to his condemnation of a Provisional operation. The Provisionals now follow the line of a long litany of those who have abandoned the Republic proclaimed in arms in 1916 and established by the popular will of the Irish people in 1918. They have gone down the road of Cumann na nGaedheal 1922, Fianna Fáil 1926, Clann na Poblachta 1946 and the Workers' Party. The essential difference being of course that all these other groupings had the decency and honesty to abandon all pretence of revolutionary Republicanism by changing the name of their political organizations. We would call on the Provisionals to take the same step and drop the title Sinn Féin whose historical aims and objectives they have abandoned and betrayed.
Question 6. It is claimed that the vast majority of Irish people do not support your campaign, with the vote cast for the Belfast Agreement being cited as evidence for that. If you accept that assessment, how can you justify the continuation of armed struggle against the expressed wishes of the Irish people?
Answer 6. Eamonn de Valera is on record as having said in relation to the Treaty of 1921 that ‘the Irish people did not have the right to vote for treachery’. We believe that just as in 1921 a war weary Irish nation in 1998 was bombarded, hood-winked and confused by a pro-British and West Briton media into voting for a political package which deprived them of their right to self-determination and subverted the Republic established by them in 1918. If we as Republicans who oppose the sell-out enshrined in 1998 Agreement are a minority in the population of today we follow a long and noble tradition stretching back to the Fenians, the men of 1916, Republican Volunteers of the 30s, 40s and 50s who had no electoral mandate but were convinced of the rightness of their cause and had the physical and moral strength of their convictions. Remember the words of Bishop Moriarty ‘hell was not hot enough nor eternity long enough to roast the Fenians’, yet those men were honoured and revered by later generations of the Irish people. We are convinced that in the future history will judge us to be correct in our political analysis. Partition was imposed against the wishes of the Irish people under threat of ‘immediate and terrible war’ it is total hypocrisy to use that argument in support of partition. Why were the people as a whole – in a single referendum not asked their view on British withdrawal and national self-determination?
Question 7. Do you view Nationalists who join the PSNI [Police Service of Northern Ireland] as legitimate targets?
Answer 7. We regard the PSNI as an integral section of the British Crown Forces and its war machine in Ireland. We cannot see how any individual who considers themselves Nationalist could join such a force. Certainly, in recent days it has become painfully clear that the leopard has not changed its spots with the blatant re-enactment of a shoot-too-kill policy.
Question 8. Do you view Nationalist representatives on the Policing Board and the District Policing Partnerships as legitimate targets?
Answer 8. We do not discuss operational matters.
Question 9. Do you intend to enter into electoral politics or do you call on your supporters to support any existing political party?
Answer 9. No. History of Irish Republicanism since 1921 illustrates quite clearly that those former Republicans who abandon revolutionary methods and opt for the constitutional path become integral components of the partitionist political systems they sought to overthrow.
Question 10. How do you view the political direction taken by the Provisional movement and how do you view that movement itself?
Answer 10. We believe that the roots of the present day political process were formulated in a joint strategy drawn by the British and Dublin Governments in the late 1972-73. It was known as the three-strand approach and the Dublin Government was highly influenced in its dealings with the British in this period by the SDLP and John Hume in particular. In all fairness to the SDLP in their support for the Belfast Agreement and participation in the Stormont Assembly they are merely being consistent in implementing a political process of which they were one of the main architects. The Provisionals on the other hand are now supporting and lauding a process they rejected for 25 years. In fact Martin McGuinness said of the Sunningdale Agreement in 1973 ‘we will blow it out of the water’ – a quarter of a century later he entered British ministerial office with unashamed zeal and glee and proceeded to administer very bad British rule in the Six-Counties. The Provisionals have followed the path of others in abandoning the Republic. They are no longer Republicans. Eventually they will become indistinguishable from Fianna Fáil and the SDLP. Our political position and policies are based on ideology and principles. The Provisionals’ position is based on an abandonment of principles, political intrigue, ambition, pragmatism and ideological U-turns. A cursory glance at their political track record will confirm this. They have gone from revolutionary Republicanism to constitutionalism Nationalism and will eventually take their seats in Westminster.
Question 11. Given recent reports of violent attacks on members of your movement by members of the Provisional movement in Strabane, what is the current state of relations between you both in that area and in the country as a whole?
Answer 11. Our position remains as it has always been – we will take whatever steps are necessary to protect our Volunteers but our main focus is on those who illegally occupy our country.
Question 12. Following the statement issued to the press by the Portlaoise prisoners there has been speculation about the ability of the present leadership of the ‘real’ IRA to continue. What is the current organisational state of the ‘real’ IRA?
Answer 12. The statement from Portlaoise should be viewed as absolute treachery. There are mechanisms within our Movement to address any complaints or grievances no matter how serious or critical and individuals in Portlaoise are well aware of this. In simple terms the motivation behind the statement was an attempt to force a cease-fire on this Movement by two individuals. They have manipulated a situation for their own selfish agenda. The days of the Republican Movement following false icons are over and we will be guided by our principles and the views of all our Volunteers. Our Volunteers’ position is not reflected in the statement from Portlaoise. The allegations made in that statement are a complete red-herring. Óglaigh na hÉireann attempted to address their so-called grievances but in an unprecedented move within the history of Republicanism these men pre-empted any investigation and ran to the media for highly questionable reasons. In their desperation these men have attacked other Republican prisoners who will not follow their personal agenda. Those Volunteers in Portlaoise loyal to Óglaigh na hÉireann have established new structures and are working harmoniously and constructively with the wider Movement including Republican Prisoners in all other jails. We have consulted with Republican Prisoners in the North and in England and in no way is the statement issued to the Irish Independent newspaper reflective of their position. They are in total support of the leadership of Óglaigh na hÉireann and see this statement for what it is. Óglaigh na hÉireann has always accepted responsibility for all its actions. We would question the motivation of individuals distancing themselves from certain operations and what they hope to gain from such a move. There are mechanisms in place to deal with the relationship between Óglaigh na hÉireann and prisoners. Some individuals in Portlaoise have already been dismissed and further investigations are ongoing.
Question 13. In that statement the prisoners claimed that the leadership’s "financial motivations far outweigh their (your) political commitment". How do you respond to that?
Answer 13. The answer to question 13 is encompassed in answer 12.
Question 14. What is the current relationship between the ‘real’ IRA leadership and the Portlaoise prisoners?
Answer 14. The answer to question 14 is encompassed in answer 12.
Question 15. These recent developments within your organisation have given rise to speculation about the possibility of a ceasefire. Are you considering a ceasefire? Under what conditions, if any, would you consider calling a ceasefire?
Answer 15. We cannot envisage a ceasefire in any circumstances other than in which a declaration of intent to withdraw from the occupied Six-Counties is made by the British Government. The Provisionals attempted to portray Peter Brooke’s statement that ‘Britain had no selfish, strategic or economic interest’ as a declaration of intent to withdraw from the British. We totally refuse this suggestion and would emphasise that in this utterance Brooke was merely reinforcing the Unionist veto. We require an unequivocal declaration of intent to withdraw from our country.
Question 16. Have you been in contact with any other group, or body such as the Irish government, regarding a ceasefire, and what have been the results of that contact to date?
Answer 16. No!
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