An interview with a former republican leader, Brendan Hughes, nicknamed The Dark, has caused something of a stir in the North. Appearing in the first issue of "Fourthwrite," a new magazine run by former republican prisoners, it subjects the current leadership of the republican movement to heavy and often bitter criticism. Some are accused of profiting from the armed campaign and of belonging to a "class of professional liars."
In general, they are accused of abandoning the IRA’s goals of a democratic socialist republic. Hughes does not name anyone in particular, but the world of republican ex-prisoners is a small one and he has no need to.
Such criticisms are inevitable when a movement switches from its revolutionary course to attempt a compromise. They will probably become more virulent if that attempt is seen to fail, as it has with the recent breakdown of the power-sharing government in which Sinn Fein had two seats. People will feel that neither the original sacrifice nor the compromise that followed have been worth it.
The remarks made by Hughes throw an interesting light on the confusion and demoralization currently being experienced by the republican movement. What they reveal is a potentially dangerous situation in which the political position of the current leadership will be gradually eroded.
The dangers inherent in this are obvious. Among them is the threat of a drift away from the mainstream republican organization into dissident and still violent groups such as the so-called Real IRA, which carried out the Omagh massacre and is believed to have been behind two recent failed attacks.
The Hughes interview reminds us that Irish republicans’ skepticism of ordinary politics remains very deep. Unfortunately, recent decisions by the British government have only served to deepen it.