Claims of activism within working class communities are loudly regurgitated. However, I fail to see any real evidence of this on the ground. No doubt there is a trickle of clientelism in the many hubs, centers and political offices that litter the landscape. But, in legal parlance, none of this amounts to a hill of beans.
Truthfully, the footprint left by 'dissident' Republicanism is negligible in real terms. Optimistic statements about future intentions may help to encourage a dwindling membership, in overall terms, but, to the more objective observer, the King is without attire.
Another common theme running through many of these self-interested statements is the usual appeal for some form of republican unity. I find this totally frustrating because it is never defined in any tangible form. Oppositional Republicanism is characterised by disunity and factionalism rooted in objective and subjective conditions. It is accused of lacking an alternative to challenge the status quo.
Certainly, Sinn Fein does not feel remotely threatened by anything the 'micro-groups' have to offer at the present time. And why should it? Outworking of the Good Friday Agreement completely altered the political framework of the struggle for national independence. It has transformed the revolutionary nature of the Republican project to one of incremental constitutional reform. All attempts to oppose it have failed thus far. Anti-Good Friday Republicanism, in wherever guise, has run out of steam.
Politics is unpredictable. In 1998 few could have predicted Brexit on the distant horizon. The United Kingdom is facing a constitutional crisis with each of its parts existing in a state of dynamic tension. National interests are diverging at an increasing rate. The process is fraught with uncertainty as the British state grapples with the internal and external contradictions of leaving the European Union. The impact of Brexit is being felt across the island of Ireland. A material conflict of interests between north and south threatens to destabilise the political consensus that underpinned the Good Friday Agreement. This is grist for the mill for Irish Republicans. Brexit is a British constitutional issue with potential beneficial outcomes for Irish national interests. Are Republicans capable of grasping the nettle? Or will we be left behind once again, watching from the sidelines of history.