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Wednesday, 24 October, 2001, 16:52 GMT 17:52 UK
Dissidents dub IRA 'traitors'
The Omagh bombing killed 29 people
The Real IRA were responsible for the Omagh bombing
Shane Harrison

There were no wild scenes of jubilation in republican Northern Ireland on Tuesday night greeting the news that the IRA had decommissioned.

The muted contrast with the August 1994 cease-fire announcement could hardly have been starker.

Instead there is great unease in the heartlands that the IRA has broken with its past by disposing of weapons at a time of continuing tension, particularly in north Belfast where loyalists continue to protest at Catholic children going to school.

And in the meantime dissident republicans are waiting in the wings hoping to capitalise on that disquiet, openly accusing the IRA leadership of being traitors to the republican cause of a united Ireland.

There are two main dissident groups - the Real IRA and the Continuity IRA.

Distinctions blurred

Senior police sources in Dublin believe the distinctions between the two groups may be blurring as a result of co-operation, although they have different leaderships.

Machine gun recovered by security forces from the IRA
The arms move has caused unease in republican heartlands
Of the two groups the Real IRA is the most dangerous.

It was responsible for the Omagh bomb that killed 29 people and injured over 200 in 1998.

It also bombed the BBC's Television Centre last year.

But the Real IRA has a credibility problem for those mainstream republicans uneasy about decommissioning.

Thankfully, as far as the British and Irish governments are concerned, it has failed to sustain a campaign of violence and it appears to have been heavily infiltrated by police agents.

Jail term

On Tuesday as the IRA was decommissioning, the Real IRA's Director of Operations, Liam Campbell, was being jailed for membership of an illegal organisation in Dublin.

Liam Campbell filmed secretly by Panorama
Liam Campbell: Jailed for five years
Campbell was linked by the BBC's Panorama programme to the Omagh bomb.

The group's alleged leader, Michael McKevitt, is also in custody in the Irish Republic awaiting trial on charges of directing terrorism and membership of an illegal organisation.

His wife Bernadette, a sister of the IRA hunger-striker Bobby Sands, and Marian Price, a convicted IRA bomber in the early 1970s criticised decommissioning.

They are both members of the 32 County Sovereignty Movement, a group the security forces on both sides of the Irish border believe is the political wing of the Real IRA - something the Movement strongly denies.

Arms 'sell-out'

Marian Price, a former hunger-striker herself, said the decision to decommission was a natural progression of the IRA's decision to sell-out and administer British rule in Ireland.

"I felt the treason and treachery was some years back when they sold out on all republican principles and core values", she told the BBC.

But those are minority views.

Whether they gain support will depend on activities on the ground and the normalisation of a hitherto abnormal society.

Sinn Fein can take comfort from the fact that the dissidents increasingly look like lost a bunch, mourning a lost and unrealised ideal, in what more and more looks like a lost cause.

Barring unforeseen events the future is unlikely to belong to them.

Assembly back

IRA arms breakthrough


Loyalist ceasefire





See also:

23 Oct 01 | Northern Ireland
Tony Blair's statement in full
24 Oct 01 | Northern Ireland
US congratulates IRA on 'historic' decision
24 Oct 01 | Northern Ireland
Bush welcomes IRA arms move
24 Oct 01 | World
World press review
23 Oct 01 | Northern Ireland
Real IRA man jailed for five years
23 Oct 01 | Northern Ireland
West Belfast backs decommissioning
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