Dublin and London must begin immediate talks with dissidents otherwise it will be the broad republican family which will be de-stabilised, not the peace process.
The immediate concern is to keep a lid on dissident loyalists who are looking any excuse to hit back at nationalists of any kind in the wake of prison officer David Black’s murder. Mainstream loyalism Belfast’s leadership has already embarked on a Dad’s Army-style ‘Don’t panic, don’t panic’ campaign to calm down the militants in their own ranks and members of other dissident loyalist death squads.
Hardliners from the renegade Loyalist Volunteer Force were already meeting in Mid Ulster to plan retaliation, according to well-placed loyalist sources. The source said that key Belfast loyalists were also visiting Mid Ulster to “try and calm things down because the LVF was chomping at the bit to hit back”.
The source also claimed that while top of the LVF hit list were leading Co Armagh dissident republicans, the hot-headed Protestants would adopt the naked sectarian view – any Catholic will do.
The LVF was formed as a breakaway group in the mid 1990s by the Ulster Volunteer Force’s Mid Ulster commander Billy ‘King Rat’ Wright. He had disagreed with the UVF’s 1994 ceasefire and the socialist direction of its political wing, the Progressive Unionist Party.
Wright was shot dead inside the Maze jail in December 1997 by INLA inmates. After his death, the LVF largely descended into organized crime, especially drugs. Before forming the LVF, Wright had built his Mid Ulster UVF unit into one of the most ruthless of all the loyalist killer gangs during the Troubles.
My source said:
It is clear the dissident republicans who killed Mr Black are trying to egg loyalist hardliners disillusioned with the peace process to go back to war. It is also rather daft to hear British politicians talking about a reduction in activity by the dissident republicans. That was a red flag to a bull and it was inevitable the dissidents would respond with a murder. I understand loyalists within the Mid Ulster area have already drawn up a list of targets, but people from Belfast are in the area to try and calm things down.
Meanwhile, terrorists from Southern Ireland seem to be having a greater say in the running of the overall dissident republican movement since the killing earlier this year of top Real IRA commander Alan Ryan. He was “pretty high up the organisation, a big mover and well thought off by his comrades”, according to my well-placed Northern source in the dissident republican faction, Oglaigh na hEireann.
My source - who has given me interviews in the past about ONH activities - was adamant that negative media coverage of 32-year-old Ryan being some kind of gangster “could not be further from the truth”.
The source maintains that the former Derry-based republican always wanted to use his Real IRA unit to strike at the North, and Mr Black’s murder was merely his successors carrying out his wishes.
The source added:
I knew Alan from when he was 17. He joined the Fianna of Republican Sinn Fein and then went to the Real IRA. He left behind a tight group in North Dublin. He was always well dressed. That was the way he was brought up and it’s not a crime to be well dressed. Everyone who knew him was very impressed by him and saw him as honest and charismatic. The prison officer was killed out of respect for Alan.
ONH members came to the Republic from the North to give support to the North Dublin Real IRA, the source stressed.“Ryan was certainly very prominent in the Real IRA and would have had a big say in their strategy.”
The source said the murder would act as a “springboard” to launch dissident republican activity not just in Dublin, but right across the republic, adding that the level of support was seen by the attendance at Ryan’s funeral.
Asked if there would be reprisals for Ryan’s murder, my source said: “I would be amazed if that did not happen. It is bound to happen. And it may come against the Crown forces.”
The killing of prison officer Black is more evidence of the dissidents’ drip-drip method of terrorism rather than the Provisionals’ previous long-war sustained strategy.