Northern Ireland

NI's dissident groups to unite under IRA banner

Masked men
Image caption NI's main dissident groups are uniting

Some of Northern Ireland's dissident republican paramilitary groups are to come together under the banner of the IRA, a statement has claimed.

The statement "signed army council IRA", said a number of organisations were unifying under one leadership.

It said there had been a failure among Irish nationalist leaders and there was a "necessity for armed struggle."

The Guardian reported the new force would include a number of known dissident republican groups.

The newspaper said the Real IRA had been joined by Republican Action Against Drugs (RAAD) and a coalition of independent armed republican groups and individuals, some of whom are believed to have been involved in the murder of 25-year-old Catholic Constable Ronan Kerr in 2011.

This is a grouping which could bring several hundred armed dissidents together.

The coalition said it would intensify attacks on security forces and other British-related targets.

However, police have said the threat posed by dissident republicans has not been changed since the announcement was made.

The Real IRA was identified as responsible for the Omagh bomb which killed 29 people in 1998.

RAAD operates in Londonderry in the nationalist areas of Creggan and Bogside, which during the Troubles were the centre of IRA activity in the old walled city.

Since 2008, the paramilitary group has murdered one man and shot more than 40 others. It has also warned dozens of young men to leave the city or face being shot.

In June, the armed group said it was behind a bomb attack on the PSNI.

'Competing egos'

According to the Guardian, RAAD and the Real IRA will now cease to exist.

Speaking to Radio Ulster's Nolan Show, security journalist Brian Rowan said this was a "fractured world".

"It's confused, it's a place where there are competing egos and interests," he said.

"It's a world in which there is one day a kind of reaching out to one another, only to be followed by a split.

"Are they capable of re-running the IRA campaign? No they are not, because they do not have the support.

"Do they have the capability to kill? Yes they do and that is the danger."

Mr Rowan added that the Continuity IRA and Oglaigh na hEireann remained independent.

The latter dissident group was behind a bomb which exploded outside the Army base which houses MI5's Northern Ireland headquarters in 2010 and was responsible for recent grenade attacks on police.

Sinn Fein North Belfast MLA Gerry Kelly said the new force was only a small group of people.

"They come together and go apart almost as a matter of course," he said.

He said that collectively the dissident groups had "actually killed more civilians and people from their own community than those they would call the enemy".

"I have an absolute belief in dialogue. I don't want to see more people being killed," he added.

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