Time to Bring Back the 'IRA': 'Provo Social Club' Would Keep Dissidents in Line

John Coulter with his Irish Daily Star column. It featured in Newshound on 2 September 2014.

Bring back the IRA to combat the dissident debacle!

I haven't contracted Magaluf Madness; the IRA I'm talking about is an Irish Republican Association of ex-jailbirds, former terrorists and current members of the Provos.

This Association would operate along the lines of the Royal British Legion where anyone connected to the Provisional IRA could keep in touch with each other.

The Legion and other ex-service associations have played a sterling part in helping old soldiers, sailors and airmen maintain a social contact.

That social contact is sadly lacking in the modern republican movement and has been a significant factor in the growth of the anti-Shinner dissident republican cause.

Today is my birthday and I remember the enthusiasm I felt two decades ago when the Provos announced their first formal ceasefire.

But what has constantly amazed me is even though Sinn Féin has acquired bucket-loads of benefits for the nationalist community compared to loyalism, the threat from dissident republican terror factions is just as fearsome today as it was when the Good Friday Agreement was signed in 1998.

Unionism – and especially the loyalist working class – has not been able to reap the benefits of the peace process compared to republicans.

While there may be constant rumblings about the emergence of a dissident loyalist movement, the reality is that hardline Protestants seem more intent on attacking each other and feuding over drugs profits than murdering Catholics.

So why have police chief constables since the Belfast Agreement consistently warned about the threat of dissident republicans?

The best birthday present these dissidents could give me is to copy what the Provos did in 1994 and declare a ceasefire.

The Provos carried out decommissioning of their arsenals and some suspect that they disbanded their terror cells in certain areas.

Hindsight is a wonderful gift. Perhaps disbanding was a hasty move in terms of maintaining discipline within the republican communities – and I'm not advocating punishment beatings or knee-cappings.

The problem with the current republican leadership is that they will all soon be pensioners and a generation of young republican is emerging for whom the 1994 ceasefire is part of their school history lessons.

An Irish Republican Association could also have become a focal point, not just for internal discipline within the terror movement, but also as a discussion base for current and former Provos to prevent defections of experienced terrorists to the ranks of the dissidents.

Such an Association could also still operate as a back channel between mainstream republicans and the various dissident factions to bring about the latter's permanent ceasefire and decommissioning.

Just as the muslim community has had to cope with the threat of young Islamic radicals, so too, as the centenary of the Easter Rising looms will the republican community have to deal with the potential radicalisation of young nationalists.

As the ex-IRA jailbirds steadily lose their influence in the republican movement, 21st century Sinn Féin is becoming increasingly dominated by the 'draft dodger generation' – those republicans who have never served an apprenticeship in the 'RA.

Ever since the pre-Cromwell 1641 Irish rebellion, each generation of nationalism has thrown up a violent phase.

With rumours that some dissident republican factions have climbed into bed politically with Islamic radicals, how long before the next generation of Troubles kicks off?

Hopefully, I won't be waiting another decade before nationalists think smart and launch the Irish Republican Association.

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