Republicans considering a debate on possible alternatives to the troubled 1998 Good Friday Agreement have abandoned a meeting scheduled for Tuesday night, with conflicting reasons given for the decision.
There were suggestions that the event has been “hijacked” by militant republicans against the wishes of the organisers, while other reports claimed (Provisional) Sinn Féin had pressured the owner of the venue in Toomebridge, County Antrim, to pull out.
Dominic McGlinchey, a son of the former INLA leader of the same name and a former member of Sinn Féin, said some Sunday newspaper reports that the forum was to debate a new military strategy were “reckless and dangerous”.
“It was intended to be a meeting of political minds. The meeting was about the coming together of a broad section of republican opinion, to either agree or disagree,” he said. “It wasn’t meant to be about Provo or Sinn Féin bashing.”
Mr McGlinchey, a prominent local republican, also attacked reports that the meeting would see strong criticism of Sinn Féin by republican hardliners.
“It was made clear to everyone who was invited that Sinn Féin are the main players within republicanism and without them being present at the meeting there was no point in it taking place.
“I wasn’t pressurised by the provisional movement into cancelling it. This was intended to be one in a series of meetings arranged to analyse our past. It was about what has taken place over the last 30 years and the last 600 years.
“It was intended to be about what have we learned from Connolly and Costello, who talked about having an umbrella where no one was marginalised.”
Paddy Murray, a former Provisional IRA prisoner now on bail on Real IRA charges, said he wanted “get a debate going” but the venue had suddenly become unavailable.
“When we get another venue, the meeting will take place,” he said.
“Censorship did not work for the Brits and it’s not going to work for the Provos.
“The idea is to get as much debate going as possible - republicanism used to pride itself on being able to debate stuff.”
However, McGlinchey said the meeting was cancelled because it “would have divided republicans rather than united them”.
“To divide republicans would have been to go against the original objectives,” he addded.
A Sinn Féin spokeman said the party had “no concerns at all” about the meeting and had no involvement.
“These people can hold a meeting if they want to. It’s a matter for themselves.”