‘Oglaigh na h-Eireann’ speaks out

One of the breakaway IRA groups heavily involved in the recent upsurge of armed actions has confirmed that it is growing in strength and that most of its members are former members of the Provisional IRA.

The admission was made in the first detailed interview to the Irish News given by ‘Oglaigh na h-Eireann’ (ONH) since it emerged four years ago.

A spokesperson for the group denied it was involved in secret meetings with the British government, but claimed there have been “indirect attempts” by London to open channels of communication.

Earlier this month, ONH exploded a 200lb bomb outside the main police station in Derry, and in April it left a bomb outside MI5 headquarters outside Belfast.

“There are members of our organisation who came from within the ranks of the IRA and had sat back and gave Sinn Fein breathing space to make the agreement work and achieve their goals,” the unnamed member of the groups’ Army Council said.

“That didn’t happen and we now have a puppet Stormont parliament that is controlled by Westminster,” the ONH representative said.

“The vast majority of our members are former members of the Provisional IRA who recognised a credible alternative in ONH, and a few had previously not been involved with any other group.”

It was also emphasised that the group had no connection to a Continuity IRA breakaway group from Strabane, who also used the name Oglaigh na hEireann, the traditional Gaelic name for the IRA.

“What many of the seasoned members would say is that they waited and waited for an alternative, not wanting to get involved with the existing armed groups for various reasons, mainly being they just didn’t rate them,” the spokesperson said.

“We set the bar extremely high when it comes to recruitment. ONH are not fixated on numbers - it’s a case of quality over quantity.”

At the weekend, it was again claimed in the British media that the breakaway IRA groups are planning attacks in Britain. One British MP and a former British Army soldier, Patrick Mercer, claimed ex-colleagues had told him that “several groups” wanted to “catapult themselves into the headlines” by attacking targets “on the mainland”.

The ONH spokesperson said: “There are reports every Sunday about what ONH are going to do but we do not speak to tabloid newspapers.

“In the future, we will target the British apparatus, should that be in Belfast, Birmingham or London.

“It’s OK for people to say we don’t have the capability. A year ago, they said we couldn’t even detonate a bomb.”

It admits to having only a small number of members, but that previous major Irish republican military campaigns also did not have widespread public support initially.

The ONH spokesperson said: “What we intend to achieve is to continually upset and expose this myth of normalisation.

“So really what we intend to achieve is to continually upset and expose this myth of normalisation but without the back-room deals that weakened the [Provisional] IRA’s position.

“We intend to nick at the heels of the Brits to eventually force them into a situation were they open up negotiations on the issue of British interference in Irish affairs.”

The ONH Army Council member denied it was meeting with the Dublin or London governments.

“There have been indirect attempts at trying to instigate channels of communication.

“This has taken a few forms on occasions our members have been approached by MI5 when arrested or when stopped who have attempted to recruit them or asked that channels of communication be opened up with the Brits.

“Needless to say that this hasn’t happened.”

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