New IRA says Brexit helps its cause and draws in young recruits

It would be 'remiss' of them not to capitalise on political fallout, representative says 

Emma Snaith
Sunday 28 April 2019 20:16 BST
The New IRA admits that its campaign of violence has no chance of achieving their goal of a united Ireland
The New IRA admits that its campaign of violence has no chance of achieving their goal of a united Ireland

Brexit is helping the New IRA to recruit young supporters and continue its campaign of violence, senior members of the paramilitary organisation have said.

The group, who accepted responsibility for the killing of journalist Lyra McKee last week, said the fallout from Britain's decision to leave the European Union had highlighted the presence of border and partition.

“Brexit has forced the IRA to refocus and has underlined how Ireland remains partitioned," a representative told The Sunday Times. "It would be remiss of us not to capitalise on the opportunity. It’s put the border on the agenda again."

They acknowledged that their campaign of violence has no chance of achieving their goal of a united Ireland.

“Our armed actions serve one purpose," one dissident said. "They are symbolic. They are propaganda.They let the world know there is an ongoing conflict in Northern Ireland. Condemning the IRA is nothing new. We are not interested in being popular. Republicanism has always been a small core of people."

The organisation is "driven by young people", they added.

"Young people are being radicalised because they have no one to turn to," they said. "There are no left-wing political parties any more. Sinn Fein don’t represent republicans. They are a centrist party now."

While the organisation has accepted Lyra McKee's death was from shots fired by one of their members, they insisted the shooting was “unintentional.”

The New IRA can trace its lineage back to the Real IRA, which was formed following a split in the Provisional IRA by dissident members who rejected the 1997 ceasefire.

It was reported in 2012 the Real IRA had merged with several smaller Republican militant organisations and – although the group still calls itself the IRA – became widely referred to as the New IRA.

The group rejects the Good Friday Agreement, which effectively brought about the end of The Troubles by setting out both Northern Ireland’s status within the UK and its relationship with the Republic of Ireland.

It has been linked with a number of violent incidents in recent years. In 2014 the group sent seven letter bombs to British Army recruitment offices in south east England.

And the group is considered the “main line of enquiry” in a car bomb attack on a courthouse in Derry, which took place in January this year.

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A study compiled by two Unesco chairmen in February warned a return to violence would be "inevitable" if there was a hard border in Ireland due to a no-deal Brexit or a rushed border poll.

The report added that nationalist youths, who are marginalised, would be vulnerable "to being groomed into violent activity by dissident republicans including the 'New IRA'".

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