In the coming days the different dissident republican groups will have something to say about their wars. They will use Easter to present themselves as more right than those republicans who have now chosen peace and politics after many decades of “armed struggle”.
And, in a few days’ time, when the words of the dissidents are spoken they then need to be dissected and challenged. Their actions may be deadly, but these are phoney and pointless wars – wars without purpose, and wars that are very personal.
In between the dissident and mainstream blocks there is another group of sit-on-the-fence republicans, those who say they do not condone armed actions, but who refuse to condemn them. They are cowards of the very worst kind. Armed struggle is about taking life. You either support it or you don’t. And it is too serious to be part of some contradictory word play or puzzle.
Beyond the tragedy and the pointlessness of the killing of police constable Stephen Carroll, there is another tragedy. That one of those jailed for that killing was just seventeen when it happened, and only two years old at the time of the 1994 IRA ceasefire. Who recruited John Paul Wootton into that dissident world, and why? For what was he told he was fighting, and who told him? And as Wootton now faces long years of his young life in jail, where is that person who lured him into this world and these pathetic wars? To whom is that person accountable or answerable?
Over Easter there will be much erased or omitted from the various dissident scripts – whether Real IRA, Continuity IRA, Oglaigh na hEireann, 32-County Sovereignty Movement, Republican Sinn Fein, Republican Network for Unity and those who have others labels or titles in this scattered world.
We will not be told:
- That they cannot sustain a campaign;
- That they have not the weapons or wherewithal to do so;
- That they have not the necessary expertise, finance or support;
- That these are wars they know cannot be won;
- That they have no strategy;
- That they are taking lives and wasting lives in actions that look like killing for killings sake.
Nor will they identify their real enemy, not the ‘Brits’ but other republicans – the vast bulk of republicans – who having fought a war and recognised a military stalemate have travelled another path.
How serious is the dissident war when, at the turn of this year, the faction Oglaigh na hEireann played cat-and-mouse with visiting soldiers over several days before placing a device inside one of their cars – a bomb that was later discovered. During the IRA war, those soldiers would have been shot on the spot, they would not have survived.
The pattern of dissident activity remains the odd “successful” attack, but much more often devices fail to detonate, are not detonated, are abandoned or only partially explode. Is it technical incompetence or something else?
They may speak big over the Easter period, but there will be no winners in any of these dissident wars – only losers.
PSNI officers Stephen Carroll and Ronan Kerr have lost their lives, but the targeting of police is to distract from the real enemy – Adams-McGuinness and the Sinn Fein peace strategy. The dissidents would be much more honest with themselves if they told that truth this Easter.
Their wars are about personal grudges, a hatred of the Sinn Fein leadership and killing to try to stay relevant.
MI5 with all its “spookery” and intelligence gadgetry is not best placed to push the armed dissidents off the stage. It is a piece of work for the republican/nationalist/Catholic community – to demonstrate not just a condemnation of these occasional armed actions but an intolerance of them.
Dissidents are entitled to have a different opinion. And there should be a place for that second voice in the republican community, and it should be heard. But it is being drowned out by those who want to play and practice in these pathetic, pointless and personal wars; being drowned out by those who no doubt will try to kill again.
Inside Maghaberry Jail, John Paul Wootton will have many years to consider how much closer Ireland is to being united, and to ask himself, has he done anything to force the ‘Brits’ out?
His is a story of a young man used in a phoney war.