A: Examine their consciences. Take a good look at what is going on. If they agree - ok. If not then speak out." - Fourthwrite interview with Brendan Hughes
TPQ reproduces Gemma Murray's latest feature from the News Letter on physical force republicanism. In this piece she has interviewed former INLA volunteer and blanketman, Tony O'Hara. It initially featured on 8 January 2014.
The 57-year-old, who spent five years in prison for INLA activities, said 'nothing will be achieved by the current republican [dissident] campaign apart from filling up jails'. 'They [dissidents] need to realise that,' he added.
Even years ago when I was involved I had difficulty about taking life. But then it seemed a necessary part of the war.
If they continue it is a waste of their time and only inflicts hardship on a community that is already under terrible hardship from the economy and everything else.
What they [dissidents] are doing at the moment is going nowhere. When we look back all the people who lost their lives, and those who were injured and hurt in attacks and bombings everywhere, it achieved nothing.
The former blanketman, who was the cell mate of the first republican prisoner to die on hunger strike, Bobby Sands, added that 'all those lives were lost and it wasn’t worth it'.
'Hindsight is a great thing,' he added. 'Myself and my friends were prepared to die so that Ireland would be free. But what was I prepared to die for?'
He added that:
nothing will be achieved [by dissident republicans] by fighting on apart from misery.
Nothing can be achieved for the next 20 years, if they keep going, apart from more people going into jails.
There is no difference between what the Provos were fighting for and what they [dissidents] are fighting for.
But the big difference is the lack of support from the community. It is not there any more. If you look back in the history of Sinn Fein from 1975/76 you see headlines like "Smash Stormont".
Now years later the same members are in government there. They [Sinn Fein] keep on using the word dissidents, but the Provos were the largest dissident group going.
They left the IRA. For them to use the word dissidents when they themselves were dissidents is laughable.
They use the word like it is a dirty word.
Mr O’Hara said that is why he did not use the term.
The Londonderry man, who joined the INLA in 1975 when the IRA went on a temporary four-month ceasefire, added he 'never had any hope for the Haass talks. When you get people who are so entrenched in their position there is no chance of them moving on'.
Tony O’Hara is the sixth former senior republican and blanketman to speak to the News Letter calling for dissidents to examine the history of the Troubles and rethink their campaign.
In recent weeks former senior Provisional IRA man Tommy Gorman said 'a group of us have been making this point about dissidents for a long, long time'.
Earlier, former hunger striker Gerard Hodgins asked dissident republicans to:
try and come up with a non-violent alternative because there is no appetite or support for a violent conflict in this country among any significant number of the population.
Former Provo Tommy McKearney said he believed dissident republican violence was bolstering Sinn Fein support.
And in the first of the series former senior IRA men Anthony McIntyre and Richard O’Rawe branded the ongoing dissident campaign as “madness” and called for them to stop.
Mr McIntyre said:
Republicans lost the war and the IRA campaign failed and the dissidents need to be told that it failed rather then be allowed to continue thinking what they do. It cost so many lives.