THREE MAJOR dissident republican groups in Northern Ireland have merged to form a new group under the name of the Irish Republican Army.
In a statement sent to The Guardian, the Real IRA, the Derry-based Republican Action Against Drugs, and a coalition of other smaller armed groups said they were coming together under a “unified structure” with a single leadership body.
Describing itself as the Irish Republican Army, the group says its leadership remains “committed to the full realisation of the ideals and principles enshrined in the Proclamation of 1916″.
The statement, signed off by “Army Council … IRA”, describes the current situation in Northern Ireland as a “phoney peace, rubber-stamped by a token legislature in Stormont”.
“The IRA’s mandate for armed struggle derives from Britain’s denial of the fundamental right of the Irish people to national self-determination and sovereignty,” the group said.
“So long as Britain persists in its denial of national and democratic rights in Ireland the IRA will have to continue to assert those rights.”
The Guardian’s Henry McDonald, a seasoned reporter of the Northern Irish peace process, said the merger left only the Continuity IRA – which did not begin paramilitary operations until after the Provisional IRA ceasefire in 1994 – as a separate paramilitary group.
Groups styling themselves as the IRA consider themselves to be the legitimate successor to the earlier Irish Republican Army, which was recognised as the official army of the first Dáil in 1919.
That Dáil – consisting of members elected to the House of Commons from constituencies across Irish constituencies – claimed to represent all 32 counties of Ireland as an independent, autonomous legislature.
The original IRA believed that no Irish government had the authority to accept the partition of Ireland, or to govern only 26 of its counties – meaning any southern government after partition was illegitimate.
It therefore believed that it, as an organ of the last “official” Irish government, retained its status as that country’s official army.