Dissident leader's chilling message

The activities of dissident republican groups are coming under increasing scrutiny by gardai as part of the security preparations for Brexit.

One of the main targets of security forces on both sides of the Border are the activities of the New IRA.

Security sources say the organisation has been increasingly active in recent months, and it has been linked to the “unbelievably reckless” bomb that exploded outside Derry court house last weekend. The bomb exploded 30 minutes after a telephone warning to the Samaritans and as police were still clearing the area.

No organisation has claimed the bomb attack. However, the dissident republican political organisation, Saoradh, claimed that some of its members were among seven people who were arrested in the days after the explosion.

Over an Americano in a Crumlin coffee shop last week, the leader of this “revolutionary republican party”, a Dubliner in his 50s, offered a chilling glimpse of the fanaticism that could threaten peace in Northern Ireland.

Brian Kenna is a former employee of the Health Service Executive, and a former prisoner. Jailed for a foiled IRA armed raid in Wexford, he was released under the Good Friday agreement in 1995 and later moved to dissident republican politics – although he does not call it that.

He worked for the HSE’s drug addiction services. He was caught carrying notes from dissident republican prisoners in jail to the leadership in Northern Ireland. Kenna was jailed in 2017 for IRA membership. He lost his job but on his release was elected chairman of Saoradh.

He claimed Saoradh is not a mouthpiece of the New IRA – or any other organisation, armed or otherwise – but an “autonomous” political organisation.

Kenna said he didn’t know the names of those arrested last weekend.

“But I know they are members of Saoradh,” he said. He claimed their arrests were part of an attempt to “demonise” the group, underlined, he argued, by the fact that they were released without charge.

Asked if he approved of the bombing in Derry, he said: “If I was to answer that, that would be used against me in a court of law” and accused the courts of being “politically motivated”.

Pressed again, he said: “My opinion of it is that because we have continued partition of this island and occupation of this island by an armed foreign entity, you are always going to see women and men resist that occupation with the use of force.”

The Garda Commissioner, Drew Harris, warned in November that dissident republicans will undoubtedly attempt to exploit any form of a hard border post-Brexit as “an emotional rally call around their outlook and terrorist aspirations”.

In Kenna’s view, Brexit brings the Border into “sharp focus”. He said he “understands why people would be willing to resist British occupation of this country. In every generation, the last 800 or more years, has resulted in people taking up arms against British occupation. I understand that and that continues,” he said.

“Brexit is bringing that attitude into sharp focus. Brexit is showing up the fact that the island is divided, that we do have a Border. It doesn’t matter if it’s a hard or soft border.”

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