The ‘New IRA’ has responded to a call by former Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams for rival republican groups to “go away”, with posters signed in the name of “The IRA” appearing in west and north Belfast.
The posters, which show a photograph of an armed IRA Volunteer, read in stark capitals: “We Are Not Going Anywhere Gerry / 32 or Nothing.”
In an interview on Brexit with the BBC’s Newsnight programme, Mr Adams said this week: “There is no community support for a return to conflict anywhere.
“They [the New IRA] may have the ability to carry individual actions but all thinking republicans are committed to peaceful, democratic means. The IRA is gone.”
A series of bomb hoaxes, arms finds, raids and arrests in recent weeks has added to concerns over a deterioration in the political climate. British soldiers have also begun appearing in support of police operations with increasing frequency.
The mainstream British media has focused its attention on republicans they believe are looking to “exploit” Brexit, rather than the threat posed by the Tories’ failure to abide by previous peace deals.
Sinn Fein has joined other political parties in warning that a return of a more visible border following Brexit could lead to an increase in support for rival republican groups, such as new political party Saoradh.
Asked on BBC Newsnight what he would say to leaders of republican groups who were once his former comrades, the former Sinn Fein president replied: “Go away.”
To which Paul Duffy of Saoradh replied: “We have no intention of going home, Gerry.”
A Sinn Fein spokesperson added later: “Sinn Fein has been clear, there is no place for armed groups in our society. They should go away and leave the stage.”
In a separate development, Saoradh said they intend to hold a commemoration for hunger striker Raymond McCreesh in the park named after him in Newry. The vigil will be held at 2pm on Sunday to mark the 37th anniversary of the IRA man’s death.
Loyalist lobbyist Willie Frazer had called on Newry, Mourne and Down District Council to stop the event.
“Organisers would be well aware of the tension within the area and hurt caused to victims of IRA violence by the continuing debate over the naming of this park,” he said.
“I am strongly considering a counter protest on Sunday - the voice of the innocent victims must and will be heard.”
Saoradh spokesman Stephen Murney said that it is a public park and that republicans commemorating their dead in their own communities should not offend anyone.
“There are a plethora of monuments and streets in Newry named after numerous colonial figures, Republicans and Nationalists could very easily take offence and demand that they be renamed and removed but We haven’t,” he said.
“We have chosen this location to hold this event because the local community hold Ray McCreesh in such high regard. The Republican community in Newry have nothing but the utmost respect for Raymond, the sacrifice he made and the cause for which he died.
“We will not be deterred by hysterical threats of counter protests from sectarian bigots.
“We will be going ahead with our event on Sunday and we urge everyone to join with us to remember and pay tribute to one of Ireland’s bravest martyrs.”