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Dissident Republicans, The Real Threat to the G8?

13/06/2013 11:43 BST | Updated 12/08/2013 10:12 BST
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Protests this week ahead of next week's G8 summit led to riot police being deployed on the streets of London. While this has received wide coverage, few British news outlets mentioned the a seizure of guns and explosives in Derry, just over an hour's drive from the location of this year's G8 summit, Fermanagh.

In 2009 areas of Fermanagh in Northern Ireland were declared 'no-go areas' due to intense dissident Republican activity; but in 2013 the county will play host to Barrack Obama, Vladimir Putin and other world leaders. With the eyes of the world on this part of Ireland, will the dissidents try to use the summit to their advantage and possibly even attack the G8 itself?

Dissident Republicans oppose the Good Friday Agreement which largely brought an end to the 30 years of strife in Northern Ireland known as "the Troubles". They aim to destabilise power sharing executive set up by the agreement, which they see as normalisation of British rule in Northern Ireland. In pursuit of this aim they have killed police officers, soldiers and prison guards. In Fermanagh alone there have been almost a dozen attempts on the lives of Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) officers over the past five years, with dissidents using roadside bombs, grenades, RPGs and IEDs in attempts to kill and intimidate.

If we look at the statements made on restricted Republican forums we can see that violent republicans see the G8 as an opportunity to bring the eyes of the world to their cause. In the words of one poster:

This is big news for Irish Republicanism. A great opportunity to show the world that the struggle for national liberation and socialism still goes on.

In March a 60kg bomb was found 16miles from where the summit is due to be held, the remote Lough Erne Resort. Though it was initially thought that the bomb was destined for a nearby PSNI station, on Monday Óglaigh na hÉireann, one of the three main dissident groups, claimed that its final location was in fact the Lough Erne Resort itself.

So are Barack Obama and other world leaders in danger? In short, no. Attacking police patrols in rural Fermanagh in an attempt to create 'liberated zones' is in a totally different league to attempting to kill world leaders. A direct attack on the summit is unlikely for two reasons. Firstly, it would be monumentally difficult to carry out. The summit itself is being held in a remote location for precisely this reason. Surrounded not just by the PSNI, but by the secret services of some of the world's most powerful countries, a successful attack on the summit itself would be an astonishing feat. Even those within closed Republican forums who support violent Republicans dismiss those suggesting an attack would be possible as having watched "too many Die Hard movies."

The second reason an attack is unlikely is that killing world leaders would gain attention, but attention of a negative kind. Despite attempts to paint them as mindless killers, dissidents are in fact highly rational in their use of violence. The greatest PR disaster the dissidents ever suffered was the Omagh bombing, which resulted in the death of 29 civilians including a mother pregnant with twins. Dissident groups have learnt the lesson of Omagh and openly admit that it set them back "by ten years." Some imprisoned dissidents have even gone so far as to suggest that the bomb was planted by the security services in order to discredit them. With this in mind many posters on closed Republican forums have suggested that an attack on the summit itself would be self-defeating and would turn world opinion against them. In the words of one poster:

Sure they would get worldwide coverage but it would be negative, they would maybe get some support from Iran and North Korea I suppose

With the above in mind, the most likely "attack" to occur at the summit is the placement of a hoax device or a hoax call using a recognised code word. This would gain headlines while ensuring that there were no casualties. However just because they are unlikely to attack the summit itself does not mean they will not seek to use this opportunity to disrupt the event and carry out attacks elsewhere. This has specifically been discussed on Republican forums with one forum participant stating:

The backlash if we're to provide one will have to take place elsewhere in the 6 counties.

This backlash will likely consist of a barrage of hoax devices being placed to stretch the PSNI in addition to a redoubled effort to kill PSNI officers with roadside bombs and mortar devices. The successful murder of one PSNI officer during the summit would gain worldwide attention and help the group responsible (there are three major groups vying for dominance) to cement their position in a divided Republican community.

In addition to violent activity, the political wings of the various armed groups are attempting to bring their supporters together with the anti-capitalist protesters that usually dog G8 summits wherever they're held. The 32 County Sovereignty Movement, the political branch of the Real IRA, issued a statement calling on "[s]ocialist comrades from all over the world to descend on Fermanagh in throngs that will dwarf the imperialist terrorist brigades drafted in to enforce this imperialist summit of global terror." It is as of yet unclear how successful these groups will be in coalescing with the global anti-capitalist movement, but even if these efforts meet with limited success we can expect violent protests and rioting in the areas surrounding the summit and throughout Northern Ireland.

The G8 summit in Ireland is likely to see riots, hoax bombs and a renewed effort to kill police offers while the world is watching, but Barack Obama should sleep soundly in the beautiful surroundings of the Lough Earne resort this summer. PSNI officers in the remote stations of rural Fermanagh may not be so lucky.