A prominent political voice in Irish dissident republicanism has urged all armed paramilitary groups in Northern Ireland to call for a ceasefire and an end to their violence.
Des Dalton, former president of the ideologically tough Republican Sinn Féin, has become the first figure to emerge from dissident Republican groups to advise those like him who oppose the Good Friday deal to call off the “armed struggle.” His call for a dissident Republican ceasefire comes at a time of growing tension within Northern Ireland, particularly within paramilitary factions loyal to Ulster.
A coordinating body representing the illegal groups Ulster Volunteer Force, Ulster Defense Association and Red Hand Commando has withdrawn its support for the Good Friday deal. Loyalists say the imposition of a “border” along the Irish Sea, which economically separates Northern Ireland from the rest of the UK, has forced them to rethink their position in favor of the deal.
the Observer understands that this does not mean that the ceasefire of any of these terrorist groups is threatened in the short or medium term, although relations between the loyalists and the Irish government are said to be very tense.
In an interview for a University of Liverpool project on the constitutional future of Ireland, obtained by the ObserverDalton stresses that his demand for a ceasefire is made in his personal capacity and not on behalf of Republican Sinn Féin (RSF). The RSF national executive member says he believes that the current armed campaigns cannot be justified strategically and morally. He adds that the suspension of the “armed struggle” will create better conditions for all of Ireland’s dialogue on reunification to take place in the post-Brexit era.
Republican Sinn Féin and his military allies in the Continuity IRA (CIRA) are the oldest dissident Republican organizations. RSF was founded in 1986 after a split in Sinn Féin over the abandonment of the traditional policy of boycotting the Irish parliament, Dáil Éireann.
CIRA has been responsible for a small number of armed attacks since its inception. In March 2009, a CIRA sniper shot and killed Officer Stephen Carroll, the first serving member of the Northern Ireland Police Service to be killed by paramilitaries.
While emphasizing that he will always support “the principle, the right to participate in armed action when necessary,” Dalton says: “This is a personal vision, not the vision of Republican Sinn Féin, but I would feel that the current climate, in en the moment we are in, it is not conducive to armed action. From the point of view of promoting republican objectives, it is counterproductive. Look at the actions of the last few years and none of them have advanced the cause of traditional republicanism. If anything, they have delayed that cause. “
He points to the murder of young journalist Lyra McKee two years ago in Derry as an example of armed actions that have curbed traditional republicanism. The reporter was shot and killed during a failed New IRA weapons attack on police lines in the city in April 2019.
“My experience is that when traditional Republicans are moving forward to gain support, there have been armed actions where all of that has been lost. The armed action swings against and drowns out whatever message we traditional Republicans try to deliver. You just have to look at the aftermath of Lyra McKee’s tragic death and how she turned so many people against traditional Republicans, ”he said.
Controversially from a hard-line Republican stance, Dalton says there is no adequate armed campaign by the various dissident groups today, but rather a series of what he calls “sporadic actions.” He continues: “From a moral point of view, all this has two aspects. There is the immorality of sending young men and women to kill themselves or lose theirs. Or possibly face expenses, 10, 15, 20 years in jail. I believe that morally this is not justified at this current moment, I just believe that it cannot be justified when the reality is that there is no campaign and more so because those sporadic armed actions go against traditional republicanism.
“I look at the prisons and I see young people facing 10 or 20 years of their lives and then I think of something that is not an effective campaign, that is not something that leads to some kind of significant breakthrough. Under those circumstances, I don’t think it’s justifiable to ask people to make those kinds of sacrifices and, obviously, more significantly, to take their own lives.
“In 1923 and 1962, a ceasefire was called even though there was no reversal of the traditional republican ideology. They were done purely in practical terms for the movement to back off and reevaluate. I don’t see that my call is different from then. “
Asked by him Observer If he believed that his call for a ceasefire could be heeded within the ranks of the Continuity IRA and other factions like the New IRA, Dalton said: “Frankly, I don’t know, but all I can do is offer my opinion and if not it’s so thoughtful so I’ll have to see where I’m from from there. But I’m still a traditional Republican and Republican Sinn Féin’s position reflects my own perspective. “
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism