The term 'dissident republican' is not a new one but was coined in the mid-1970s when the Official IRA was engaged in a shooting war with the fledgling INLA.
Republican Sinn Fein emerged in 1986 after a split in Sinn Fein but it sees itself as the true Sinn Fein, maintaining an 'unbroken continuity' with past. According to its national website:
Republican SINN FEIN Poblachtach was founded in 1905. In 1969 following the reformist/revolutionary split Sinn Fein reorganised as Provisional Sinn Fein upholding the Sinn Fein constitution. In 1986 Provisional Sinn Fein under a misguided leadership decided to take their seats in a British imposed parliament, namely the 26-County Parliament Leinster House. The movement split. Sinn Fein reformed again out of the walkout of the 86 Ard-Fheis led by the true Republican leadership, who saw the failure of the new Provisional leadership's decision to enter into a partitionist assembly. This as predicted led to a greater erosion of Republican principles, to the acceptance of entering a new Stormont and an acceptance of British Partition. Republican Sinn Fein uphold the right of the Irish people to oppose continued British occupation in Ireland.
Michael McKevitt was a founding member of the Real IRA and the 32 County Sovereignty Movement is often referred to as the political wing of the Real IRA, the organisation that carried out the Omagh bombing in 1998. In 2003 Michael McKevitt was sentenced in the Irish Republic to twenty years in prison on two terrorist charges, 'membership of an illegal organisation', the Real IRA, and 'directing terrorism'.
|Councillor Gary Donnelly|
The chairman of the party is Brian Leeson (Dublin) and the vice-chairman is Rab Jackson (Belfast). The general secretary is Brendan McKenna (Breandan MacCionnaith), who was the leader of republican opposition to the Orange parade from Drumcree parish church.
At the 2014 election to Belfast City Council Eirigi fielded two candidates Maire Drumm and Padraic MacCoitir but both were unsuccessful.
The party is not believed to have a paramilitary wing but in November 2012 Ursula Ni Shionnain, a prominent member of Eirigi, was arrested in County Offaly and remanded in custody for possession of two handguns and ammunition.
Some commentators view the RNU as the political wing of Oglaigh na hEireann, a splinter from the Real IRA, although this has been rejected by the RNU.
In 2011 Carl Reilly, the RNU chairperson, gave an ambiguous denial that the RNU is the political wing of the RNU. He said, 'We don't speak for or explain the actions of Oglaigh na hEireann. That is a matter for that organisation.' However at its 2011 ard fheis the RNU voted to send 'comradely greetings' to the ONH. It also 'asserted the right of Irishmen and women to use disciplined resistance to defend the Irish Republic proclaimed in 1916.'
Martin Og Meehan, son of the late Martin Meehan, is a prominent figure in RNU. He is also the author of the Ardoyne Republican blog.
Each society is named after a major republican leader and that in Ardoyne is named after Sean MacDermott (Sean MacDiarmada), one of the seven leaders of the 1916 Easter Rising.
|Dee Fennell speaking at a Sean MacDiarmada Republican Society event|
The 1916 society in Carrickmore is named after Joseph McGarrity, an Irish-American republican who collaborated with the Nazis and initiated the IRA collaboration with the Nazis. For much of his life he was the leading Irish-American supporter of the IRA.
The politics of the IRSP are far-left republican socialism and have been variously described as Marxist-Leninist and Trotskyist.
Three members of the INLA died in the 1981 hunger strike - Patsy O'Hara, Kevin Lynch and Michael Devine and in the same year party members Gerry Kelly and Sean Flynn won seats on Belfast City Council in a joint campaign with the People's Democracy but neither councillor served a full term. One went on the run after being implicated during the supergrass trials and the other resigned after becoming disillusioned with the IRSP.
The headquarters of the IRSP is Costello House on the Falls Road in West Belfast but it has no elected representatives. It fielded candidates in the 2011 local government elections in Northern Ireland, its first foray into electoral politics in almost thirty years, but none of them secured a seat, although a candidate in Strabane missed out by just one vote. In Oldpark DEA in North Belfast the candidate was Paul Little.
The INLA declared a ceasefire on 22 August 1998 and the following year it stated that 'there is no political or moral argument to justify a resumption of the campaign.' In October 2009 the INLA began decommissioning its weapons.