Analysis: PSNI must provide an assessment relating to the activities of armed republican groups, including PIRA

There are serious questions arising from the increased visibility of armed republican terrorists, not least those coalescing around their former Belfast Brigade leader and his Ardoyne commander.

By Jamie 

@Jamie BrysonCPNI

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The revelation that publicly funded republican community workers have played an active role in the continued promotion of republican terrorism will not come as any surprise to most people.

You can read the exclusive Unionist Voice story HERE

Despite the sight of armed balaclava-clad republicans on our streets in recent weeks, there has only been minor coverage of these incidents.

There is no doubt that had a publicly funded community worker with links to the UVF or UDA played an organisational role in an armed show of strength, in which automatic weapons were brought onto the streets, then Co-Operation Ireland would be taking a far more robust stance on the issue than they are in this instance. This, once again, demonstrates the disparity in how statutory agencies treat loyalist groups and republican groups.

It is also beyond doubt that there would have been a far stronger media response with scrutiny placed heavily on unionist political parties, and the funders. This hasn’t happened and thus many unionists will wonder whether a narrative, which tolerates republicanism and savages loyalism, has become so embedded that there is not only reluctance, but an unwillingness to scrutinise republicans in the same manner as loyalists.

The INLA show of strength comes only weeks after the Provisional IRA staged an armed show of strength. Despite this proscribed terrorist organisation, linked to one of the largest political parties, firing illegal weapons in an open act of terrorism, there has been little or no scrutiny of these events and only minor coverage by the mainstream media. This contrasts starkly with the focus placed on loyalist groups.

Senior Republicans, some of whom have prominent positions in Sinn Fein, were present at the PIRA show of strength- which was conveniently described by republicans as the work of ‘veterans’. This raises a hitherto unanswered question; if the IRA have supposedly decommissioned, then how have their ‘veterans’ access to weapons?

If these are new weapons, then IRA ‘veterans’ are procuring weapons; for what purpose? Has any media outlet asked the PSNI for an assessment of this situation? Evidently not, so I ask why not? The answer is relatively simple, the majority have a good working relationship with the Sinn Fein press office- headed up by a former senior North Belfast IRA man- and poking around in matters as unhelpful as the continued existence of PIRA would likely earn his wrath and thus it is much easier to focus on unionists or loyalists.

This, of course, is sometimes the fault of loyalism for failing to robustly challenge the media and engage proactively in demanding fair treatment. I have long argued that needs to change. That, however, is a debate for a different day.

The description ‘IRA veterans’ is presumably code for the rump of experienced terrorists in the IRA’s Belfast Brigade who have coalesced around their former leader and his Ardoyne commander. This group planned, and carried out the murder of Kevin McGuigan. These individuals aren’t a rag-tag bunch of criminals, but rather the key players in the IRA’s terror campaign in the 80s and 90s. What precisely are they doing? Why are they procuring weapons? These are all questions many loyalists will be asking, and indeed wondering why our so-called elected representatives aren’t asking on behalf of the entire unionist community.

The image of the Provisional IRA show of strength included in this article was first published by the Irish News. You can read the article HERE

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