McIntyre says there is little support for dissident group or its political wing in wake of MI5 sting.
An ex-IRA prisoner has said that the New IRA's political wing, Saoradh, "poses as big a threat to the British state as St Vincent de Paul".
Anthony McIntyre said there was little support for either republican organisation in their own community in the wake of revelations that the dissidents had been infiltrated by alleged MI5 agent Dennis McFadden.
Ten people, including two women and a Palestinian doctor, are facing a range of terror charges following the sting.
Mr McIntyre said that the New IRA was viewed as “a pale imitation” of the Provisionals.
“People see it as an irritant,” he said.
It is not a serious IRA fighting a determined guerilla war against the state. It is known for its incompetence and ineffectiveness. It has inflicted no casualties on the state since 2016. Last year it killed journalist Lyra McKee when it opened fire recklessly during a riot in the Creggan, and it came close to wiping out a group of young people when it exploded a bomb on a street outside a courthouse in Derry.
Mr McIntyre served 18 years in jail for the murder of a UVF man in 1976. He is a long-term critic of Sinn Fein’s political direction but opposes continuing any armed campaign.
Apart from the risk it poses to civilians primarily within its own community, the New IRA does nothing more than make a bit of noise and give the state the opportunity to continue using repressive legislation and curbing people’s civil rights.
Mr McIntyre challenged Saoradh’s claim that last month’s MI5 operation was an attempt to crush the party.
“Few will give any credence to the charge that this is a state attempt to close Saoradh down or wipe them out,” he said. “My feeling would be that Saoradh poses as much a threat to the British state as St Vincent de Paul do — which is none.”
Mr McIntyre claimed he had not seen the party “use its energy on serious and substantive” issues.
What I have seen is Saoradh join others and follow a few groups around Belfast city centre, and shout at them on the street on Saturday afternoons. It’s actually embarrassing. It makes republicans look as bad as those that they claim they are challenging.
Scotsman Dennis McFadden has been named in court as being the alleged MI5 agent involved in the New IRA sting. It has been claimed that he organised safe houses for the paramilitary group which were bugged by the intelligence services.
Mr McIntyre said:
Spying is called the second oldest profession precisely because it is not a new phenomenon. Many agents and informers penetrated the ranks of the Provisional IRA. And the IRA itself has used informers in the past. The late prison officer, John Hanna, spied on his colleagues for the IRA. So when republicans howl about spies it is only because of whose ox has been gored. If a player in any game gives the opposition a penalty kick, their adversary would be a fool not to take it.
Hanna was a senior prison officer in the H-Blocks. In 1990 he was sentenced to life imprisonment in Maghaberry jail for helping the IRA murder his colleague, Brian Armour, two years earlier.
Hanna had been involved in plans to stage a large-scale prison breakout.
He had also given information on other colleagues during an affair with a female IRA intelligence officer. He died of cancer in 1992, aged 45.
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