A Republican Sinn Fein breakaway group elected a leadership for itself at a gathering of the organisation at the weekend.
The Limerick-based group refused to recognise the leadership of Athy-based Des Dalton for RSF, led for decades by Ruairi O Bradaigh. Both organisations still use the name Republican Sinn Fein, although the Limerick-based faction has also used the title ‘Real Sinn Fein’.
Republican Sinn Fein originally broke with (Provisional) Sinn Fein in 1986 over the decision to participate in the 26-County parliament.
The meeting in Dublin formally established a new structure “based on the four provinces of Ireland, under a new Ard Comhairle [leadership],” a statement said.
In the statement, the organisation called for a new unity of all those who oppose the British presence, based on the traditional principles of Irish republicanism.
Spokesman Joe Lynch from Limerick blamed the fragmentation of Irish Republicanism on the 1998 Good Friday Agreement.
“The fact is there is now need for a re-alignment of all those who continue to hold that the core cause of conflict, the British presence in Ireland, has not been resolved,” he said.
“We in RSF are now calling for new Republican unity to present a strong and determined opposition to all those who promote the normalisation of British rule in Ireland.”
The group named as President, Seamus O Suilleabhain, from Broadford, County Limerick.
Meanwhile, the Republican Network for Unity elected well-known north Belfast man Carl Reilly as its chairperson at its annual Ard Fheis [conference] in Belfast at the weekend.
The conference also backed a motion to send solidarity greetings to the breakaway IRA armed group known as Oglaigh na hEireann, a gesture which became the focus of some political criticism at the weekend.
Both the RNU and ONH have increasingly found themselves at the centre of media controversies and propaganda campaigns in recent weeks, adding to scepticism within the nationalist community over their activities.
In one case, Sinn Fein’s Gerry Kelly demanded that the groups explain tabloid media reports of a threat against Belfast republican Seamus Finucane, the brother of murdered defence lawyer Pat Finucane. The ONH later told journalists that no such threat had been made and said there had been an attempt to smear the organisation.
Earlier this month, the ONH was also said to have been involved in a peculiar incident in north Belfast, in which a complex bomb attack against the PSNI was allegedly called off at the last moment due to the presence of a civilian. Following a plethora of claims and counter-claims, the PSNI presented a new child’s tricycle to the media which it suggested had been used to conceal an explosive device, a claim also later denied.
Sinn Fein has said it takes the incidents at face value.
“These people [the ONH] have no support in the community and they need to accept that is the case,” Mr Kelly said. He said, however, that he was “on record saying I will talk to anyone at any time”.
DONNELLY TO CONTEST ELECTION
Meanwhile, well known dissident republican Gary Donnelly is expected to contest the forthcoming local government elections in Derry.
Mr Donnelly will stand as an independent candidate in the Creggan ward in the poll, scheduled for May 5. His candidacy will be officially announced next week.
Donnelly is widely regarded as one of the most prominent republican figures in Derry and is a high profile spokesperson for the 32 County Sovereignty Movement (32CSM), although he insists he will be running as an independent candidate and not as a member of the 32CSM.
In the last election he received eight per cent of the total.