By Jack Holland
In a major break with traditional republican policy, a Provisional IRA army convention last weekend voted to allow Sinn Fein members to enter a new assembly at Stormont, it has been learned. Sources say that only nine members opposed the move. The new 108-seat assembly is part of the package, which also includes cross-border bodies, that was agreed on last month by parties to the peace process.
The Provisional IRA’s decision represents a complete reversal of republican thinking, which has always been premised on the principle that any Stormont government was the illegitimate offspring of the 1920 Government of Ireland Act, the basis for the partition of Ireland. As part of the settlement, the British government has agreed to rescind the 1920 act.
The vote to recognize a new Northern Ireland assembly came in the wake of strong indications that the Provisionals have effectively split. A dissident wing associated with the 32 County Sovereignty Committee, formed last December from people within Sinn Fein and the Provisional IRA unhappy with the current leadership’s policies, is now accepting responsibility for attacks in the name of Oglaigh na hEireann (Irish Republican Army).
The first indication of the split came on Saturday, just before the Provisionals’ convention. After a botched raid on a security van in County Wicklow last Friday in which the Gardai shot one man dead, a group calling itself Oglaigh na hEireann issued a statement claiming the dead man, Ronan McLaughlin, as a member.
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McLaughlin was allegedly part of a six-man heavily armed gang that had just stopped the security van hear Ashford.