Republican Sinn Féin has confirmed that it will stand at least eleven abstentionist candidates in the Belfast assembly elections, while independent republicans have already declared in five constituencies.
The political climate in many republican areas appears to be undergoing a transition following Sinn Féin’s decision to support the PSNI police, and republicans are face an intense political battle for their support.
RAF is currently holding a selection process for candidates to face the voters. Former republican prisoners are expected to be among their candidates in the election, which is less than four weeks away.
One possible outcome of next month’s Assembly election is that a small number of traditional republicans could hold the ‘nationalist balance of power’ at Stormont. A majority of nationalist Assembly members -- currently divided between Sinn Féin and the SDLP -- will be required in order to approve any controversial legislation.
However, RSF has said its candidates will not take their seats at the Stormont Assembly, which they reject as a partitionist instrument of British rule.
The party is expected to stand candidates in north and west Belfast and other constituencies on a traditional republican ticket opposed to British forces on Irish soil.
However, with relatively few members in the Six Counties, RSF face an uphill challenge to win votes in the face of Sinn Féin’s experienced electoral machine.
Led by Ruairi O Bradaigh, RSF was formed when he led a split from Sinn Féin over the party’s decision in 1986 to end its abstentionist policy for the Dublin parliament.
HUNGER STRIKER’S MOTHER TO RUN
It remains unclear if the group will contest constituencies where other traditionalist republican candidates have already advanced their campaigns.
In particular, there has been a significant development in the Foyle constituency, where a meeting of the Concerned Republicans and ex-PoWs group in Derry has backed the mother of a former hunger striker, Peggy O’Hara, to run against Sinn Féin on a traditionalist republican ticket.
The decision was taken following a meeting of around two hundred republicans at the Gasyard centre in the Brandywell of Derry on Tuesday night.
Paggy O’Hara is the mother of Patsy O’Hara, the second hunger striker to die after Bobby Sands, and will be competing for votes with Sinn Féin’s Raymond McCartney and Martina Anderson.
CUNNINGHAM TO CONTEST SOUTH DOWN
Meanwhile, South Down republican Martin Cunningham has announced his intention to stand as an Independent Republican candidate in South Down.
Declaring that his intention is “to offer the people of South Down an opportunity to reject British policing in Ireland”, the one-time Sinn Féin Assembly candidate has committed himself to “build a republican alternative”.
Mr Cunningham, who was sidelined in a local party ‘reorganisation’ by notorious Sinn Féin/MI5 double agent Denis Donaldson, called for a national public forum to outline in detail a new republican political direction on issues such as policing.
“The recently confirmed revelations concerning the depth of British criminality in Ireland automatically disbars the British hovernment as an acceptable agency for any aspect of policing whether you wish to call it ‘Civic Policing’ or any other bland title,” he said.
Mr Cunningham described himself as an abstentionist “not just from the Belfast Assembly but from the political process which brought it about”.
“Stormont is the product of a failed politics,” he said. “Republicans need to reorientate the debate away from secret deals with the British government and back into the control of the republican and nationalist people”.
In other areas, it has been confirmed that a former member of Sinn Féin’s ruling council, Gerry McGeogh is running in the Fermanagh/South Tyrone constituency, while former Sinn Féin Assembly member Davy Hyland will run as an independent in Newry/Armagh.
In is also understood that prominent local republican Paul McGlinchey will stand for election in Mid-Ulster.