An analysis on recent armed actions!
Óglaigh na hÉireann yesterday (17th May) claimed responsibility through the media for a gun and bomb attack on British Police operating in the Twinbrook area of West Belfast. An attack which by all accounts forced a panicked PSNI unit to scramble along the ground for cover before retreating from the area altogether, albeit only for a few hours.
Wednesday’s was the latest in a series of ÓnhÉ claimed attacks on crown forces in the Belfast area since the beginning of the year, attacks which have demonstrated a capacity for utilising mobile phone detonation, mortar capacity, under car booby trap technology and now a clear ability and intent to engage ‘face to face’ with the armed forces of the British State.
RNU has made their position on ‘Physical Force’ quite clear (see our A-Z section), it is a legacy issue borne from Britain’s insistence on maintaining its presence here by force. While claiming the right to hold a critical analysis on the political suitability of each and any republican armed action, we refuse to join in the hypoctrical chorus of condemnation from those who choose to ignore the fact that the overwhelming bulk of armed actions in Ireland are still carried out by the British state.
Day and night – and directed by MI5 -a heavily armed British PSNI literally stalk Irish Republicans and their families with hostile intent. In West Belfast, despite the best attempts from Sinn Fein and others to portray them as an accountable non-partisan force, so called PSNI ‘community officers’, Armed Response Units and Tactical Support Groups all participate in the daily harassment of republican activists.
Families are followed constantly by PSNI patrol cars and jeeps. Veichles and individuals are subjected to humiliating searches on the roadside, in school grounds while collecting children, at work, and in the home during raids which are conducted on a whim and often in random retaliation for one incident or another.
Republicans on the ground will tell you that the British PSNI carry out their armed duties with gusto, appearing to take a perverse and macho pleasure in harassing republican families, men women and children alike. Copious cases are reported of PSNI officers following republican families around for hours and subjecting them to searches at the most inappropriate and humiliating moments. Of shining powerful lights into republican homes late at night, making verbal threats and smiling smugly at the shocked reactions of parents, whose priority is to comfort their children clearly distraught at the hostile nature of the Armed Men in their midst.
But on Wednesday afternoon in broad daylight, the macho posturing of the armed British Police was deflated in Foxes Glen, when the same PSNI officers refused to engage with Irish Soldiers, instead opting to crawl along the ground to find cover. According to local people they used family cars and wheelie bins to hide behind, then scurried along footpaths in a clear state of panic before speeding out of the area, leaving the ground to Óglaigh na hÉireann.
Later a compliant media reported on the almost compulsory presence of school children ‘playing in the area’, a claim disputed in the ONH statement and indeed not borne out by the fact that it was 1pm on a school day.
Sinn Fein claims as to ‘no support’ for ONH in the Twinbrook area appear to hold no water and raise the question as to why that party needs to continually repeat this well rehearsed mantra, not to mention their obviously hypocritical new position on armed actions.
Republican veterans will confirm that attacks such as that which occurred on Wednesday cannot take place at the level which they have (and there have been numerous such attacks in the Twinbrook area) without a degree of local support. Indeed for four years or more the population in the Twinbrook district have increasingly relied on ONH to face down Anti-Community elements in that area, in full knowledge that the PSNI have no interest in Anti-Social criminality, except as a means to recruit and manipulate local youths.
Indeed the apparent response which ONH has made to requests for intervention from the community may well point to their increasing levels of support and success in Belfast and the seeming inability of the PSNI to disrupt their efforts as they have done to other like minded republican groupings.
At the beginning of January ÓnhÉ admited trying to assassinate a serving PSNI officer at his home in East Belfast by placing an UCBT beneath his vehicle In early march three more PSNI officers had a narrow escape at the Duncre towpath along the M5, when an ‘anti-personnel device’ exploded close to them. According to both the PSNI and Republican sources the IED was detonated using mobile phone technology. In a statement from the British PSNI, Detective Chief Inspector Karen Baxter said “Had this device exploded as intended we would’ve had fatalities this morning,” she said. “There was a significant degree of planning involved and this was a sophisticated device”.
Less than a week later Óglaigh na hÉireann aimed what they termed to be a ‘MK 1, 10 KG’ Mortar device at New Barnsley PSNI Barracks in West Belfast, it appears that British Army bomb disposal units were able to disable the device before it launched.
That attempted mortar attack in itself, – alongside the appearance of mobile phone detonation technology a week earlier – shines a further light on the ongoing crisis which the British PSNI are facing in their loosing battle to defeat Militant Irish Republicanism in the Belfast area, and the extents to which they will go to cover up that crisis.
Last July the PSNI assisted by dubious figures in the world of Journalism, did their best to discredit a claimed ÓnhÉ gun and horizontal mortar attack on a PSNI patrol, which took place along the Glen Road, again in West Belfast. According to the Óglaigh na hÉireann statement, one of their active service units had fired at (with a rifle) and hit a passing PSNI jeep which was driving along the Glen Road in the early hours of July 27th, 2012. As another Jeep sped to the scene, they then used mobile phone technology to detonate a horizontal mortar device which fortunately for the British Police appeared not to leave its launching tube at full velocity.
Despite video footage of the attack being released to the Irish News, the PSNI – assisted by former Sunday World Journalist Suzanne Breen – spent the following week attempting to discredit the Óglaigh na hÉireann claim. Firstly they pointed to the absence of the unexploded mortar and launch tube (ignoring the possibility that an ASU would retrieve such objects for forensic reasons) and then relied on a PSNI statement which claimed that ONH lacked both mortar capacity and the ‘ability to detonate using mobile phone technology’. A prolonged attempt was then made to discredit ONH by claiming that the attack was in fact a staged ‘hoax’.
It is now clear however (with both the M5 and Ballygomartin attacks) that both mortar capacity and mobile detonation capacity did exist, the carpet has arguably been pulled from under the feet of the conspiracy theorists, pointing to the fact that the Glen Road attack probably did occur just as ONH claimed. What is equally clear is that the PSNI have found themselves incapable of infiltrating or significantly disrupting the activities of Óglaigh na hÉireann (no charges have arose from any of these attacks) perhaps suggesting that the prudence of that group last year (maintaining their own autonomy) was well based.
Whatever the operational capabilities of Óglaigh na hÉireann and the PSNIs clear inability to defeat their efforts, what is still missing from the equation is a debate within the wider republican family as to the long-term merits of physical force, Its benefits, its drawbacks and the price which the movement and its supporters pay in terms of Gaol time and harassment.
Republican Network for Unity would call on the wider republican and socialist family to consider the holding of such a debate, free from an atmosphere of schism and based only on the realities of cold hard facts.
Jarlath Toner (RNU Armagh)