BELFAST - Reuters
Northern Ireland’s deputy First Minister, former IRA commander Martin McGuinness (L), and Queen Elizabeth shakes hands, in what many saw as a symbol of peace. REUTERS photo
Three of the four main militant nationalist groups in Northern Ireland
said they are merging and reclaiming the banner of the IRA in a threat to intensify a campaign of violence against the continued British presence in the province.
The Real IRA has been joined by Republican Action against Drugs - a Londonderry vigilante group - and what a statement described as “non conformist republicans” - smaller independent groups operating in Belfast and rural areas of Northern Ireland.
It is the first time since the signing of a 1998 peace deals which copper-fastened the Provisional IRA’s ceasefire that most of the disparate republican groups still intent on violence has come together under a single leadership. But the Continuity IRA, the other main dissident nationalist group opposed to the peace deal, which largely ended three decades of violence in which over 3,600 people died, is not part of the new organization. The Continuity IRA said in a separate statement on July 26 that it had a new leadership and was intent on pursuing its own campaign for a united Ireland.
International monitors confirmed in 2005 that the Irish Republican Army had given up all its weapons. But sporadic violence has increased in recent years with the Real IRA, which was behind the murder of two British soldiers in 2009, leading the way. The new group said on July 26 it had formed a “unified structure, under a single leadership” and that it would be “subservient to the constitution of the Irish Republican Army” - the banner under which opposition to British involvement in Ireland
has operated for more than a century.New group includes armed dissidents
It includes independent dissidents who have been responsible for the murder of one policeman, injury of others and a series of attacks on officers in recent years.
Nationalist sources said the new group includes several hundred armed dissidents, including some former members of the Provisional IRA disenchanted with the peace process and their political wing - Sinn Fein.