ONH ceasefire welcomed

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Oglaigh na hEireann (ONH) have confirmed no immediate plans to decommission their weapons following the breakaway IRA group’s announcement that it is to “suspend all armed actions against the British State”.

The move was confirmed at a press conference in Belfast involving public figures who helped broker the ceasefire.

A statement by the group said it had held discussions with members and stated that: “While ONH accept that the right of the Irish people to use armed, disciplined force to end the violation of Irish national sovereignty is unquestionable, our review has concluded that at this time the environment is not conducive to armed conflict.”

The statement was read out by trade unionist Peter Bunting, who was part of a delegation that had met ONH members over the past two years. He was accompanied by Fianna Fail TD Eamon O Cuiv and Derry community development worker Conal McFeely.

Mr Bunting said talks with ONH had been going on for more than two years and that he and his colleagues were willing to similarly engage with other dissident groups.

“There are other occasions when we talk to other people,” said Mr Bunting.

He said the ceasefire meant that “no police officer, prison officers or military personnel will be targeted”. The group’s statement did not mention ONH disbanding or its weapons. Mr Bunting said disarming or decommissioning its weapons was not part of ONH’s plans.

“That’s something maybe for the future,” he said, but it is “not on the table for talks at this stage at all”.

Mr O Cuiv, who has visited republican prisoners in jails on both sides of the border, said he was confident the ceasefire would stick. He described the statement as “clear and unequivocal”.

“I absolutely accept that when they say it’s over, in any of my dealings I’ve had with them over many, many years with republicans, when they say it’s over, it’s over,” he said.

Mr McFeely said he believed the announcement marks an end to the group’s involvement in armed struggle. “This campaign is over,” he said. “That can only be a good thing.”

Oglaigh na hEireann is the traditional Gaelic name for the IRA, and roughly translates as ‘soldiers of Ireland’.

ONH formed in 2009 and was at one point the most active of the breakaway IRA groups. High-profile attacks included a 400lb bomb left at the headquarters of the Policing Board in Belfast and a 120lb device at MI5 headquarters at Palace Barracks in Holywood, County Down.

Many ONH attacks appeared symbolic, and casualties were rare. The group claimed no fatalities throughout its entire campaign. In 2010, one attack left a Catholic member of the PSNI police with serious injuries.

There is no indication that two the larger republican armed groups, the New IRA and the Continuity IRA, have plans for a ceasefire.

However, Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams welcomed the announcement.

“I especially want to thank those trade unionists and community leaders who were involved in securing this outcome,” he said. “There can be no excuse or justification for the continued existence and operation of armed groups either unionist or republican.

“Their continued existence leads only to hardship, loss, bereavement and imprisonment. There is a peaceful and democratic way forward to resolve political differences and to work towards an agreed and united Ireland.

“Meaningful change will only be advanced through commitment to political and democratic programmes and full participation in the peace process. I call on all groups engaged in violent actions to desist, disband and to embrace the path of peaceful politics.”

Earlier this year, supporters of the Republican Network for Unity welcomed indications of a move towards the end to the Oglaigh na hEireann’s armed campaign.

Former PoW Ta Cosgrave read a statement on behalf of the movement at the party’s Edentubber commemoration on Sunday 12th November 2017:

“We ask you here, and members and supporters unable to attend and to the wider republican base, to begin with us the debate around a republican movement that is credible, realistic and modern,” he said.

“In time those determined to advance the revolutionary republican position will attest to our reshaped movement and renewed direction.”

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