Independent republicans to contest all constituencies
Independent republicans to contest all constituencies

A former Sinn Féin member and H-block blanket man is to stand as an independent in Mid-Ulster if the assembly election goes ahead in March, while another former IRA prisoner is considering running in Fermanagh-South Tyrone.

Paul McGlinchey, a brother of murdered INLA leader Dominic McGlinchey left Sinn Féin last month. He said opposition to the party’s policy on policing had now prompted his decision to go head-to-head with former colleagues including chief negotiator Martin McGuinness.

His entry into the election race came as anti-policing republicans confirmed that they would run independent candidates against Sinn Féin in 13 constituencies.

Mr McGlinchey, who has served two prison terms totalling 15 years for paramilitary activity, is the first republican to confirm he will stand as an independent anti-policing candidate.

“I was the chairman of the north Antrim 1981 committee last year and I saw it as my job to celebrate the lives of the hunger strikers and try to promote republicanism,” he said.

“But after the St Andrews Agreement I could not get my head around any of it because I realised we were going to sign up to policing and the judiciary and I believe that if we did that we were copper fastening the six-county statelet.

“That’s not what I went to jail for and it’s not what my brother went into a grave for.

“Sinn Féin asks ‘what’s the alternative?’ I believe there should be an alternative voice for republicans and that is what I am offering. During the civil war brother killed brother but at least they were in Irish uniforms - but now Sinn Féin is proposing we wear British uniforms and implement British law.”

Mr McGlinchey was released from the H-blocks in 1985 after serving almost 10 years for arms offences. In 1993 he was sentenced to five years in Portlaoise jail for armed robbery. He was freed in 1998 under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement.

The decision to put up independent candidates was taken at a meeting of Concerned Republicans in Toomebridge, County Antrim, at the weekend.

Mr McGlinchey is a member of the umbrella group. It comprises members of the IRSP, the 32-County Sovereignty Movement, non-aligned republicans and former members of Sinn Féin.

Prominent republican Gerry McGeough may challenge Sinn Féin’s Michelle Gildernew in Fermanagh/South Tyrone.

McGeough, who served three years in a United States prison for his part in the armed struggle, said that he has received messages of support and encouragement from both inside and outside the republican movement to stand.

“I have never run away from my patriotic duty,” he said. “I have never refused to do what I thought was right for my country.

“There is intense disillusionment both inside Sinn Féin and outside in the wider republican community. I am picking this up all over the north of Ireland and it’s all to do with the policing issue.”

McGeough claimed that traditional republican loyalty to the leadership throughout the peace process “had been the draught that sent republicans to sleep”.

The present battle over policing was “a struggle for the heart and soul of republicanism”.

He added: “Policing and the idea that republicans should embrace a British police force has finally woken many up from their stupor. There is some free thinking at last emerging.”

Under the deal hammered out at St Andrews last October, Sinn Féin can only enter a power-sharing executive with Ian Paisley’s Democratic Unionists when the republican party swears an oath of allegiance to the PSNI and the judicial system.

The Adams/McGuinness leadership has dismissed republican traditionalists as having little support. McGeough, however, said electoral support was not the main issue.

“This is a principled stand and it would be a greater shame if no one stood up finally and took on this leadership at the polls than the so-called shame of polling badly.”

The ex-IRA man, known for his strict views on Catholic teachings, said the feedback from grassroots republicans was ‘very encouraging’.

“I was in west Belfast on Wednesday last week speaking to people who were loyal for so long to the leadership. These people were the backbone of the movement through thick and thin. Even they are saying they don’t trust the leadership any more, which in republican terms is like a Catholic saying that they don’t believe in God.”

McGeough was a member of the IRA’s renowned East Tyrone Brigade, and a personal friend of some of those killed in the SAS Loughgall ambush twenty years ago.

Former Sinn Féin Assembly member, who quit last week, has said he is also to contest the Newry/Armagh constituency as an independent republican.

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© 2007 Irish Republican News