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  1. ITV Report

Dissident republican group Óglaigh na hÉireann announces ceasefire

The dissident republican group behind dozens of gun and bomb attacks on security forces in Northern Ireland has declared a ceasefire.

Óglaigh na hÉireann (ONH) gave a statement to the Irish News, ahead of an official announcement on Tuesday by senior trade union figures that met with members over the past two years.

A statement from the group said: "While ONH accept that the right of the Irish people to use armed disciplined force to end the violation of Irish national sovereignty is unquestionable, our review has concluded that, at this time, the environment is not conducive to armed conflict.

"Therefore the leadership of ONH are announcing that with immediate effect we will suspend all armed actions against the British state."

Despite comprising around just 50 members, Oglaigh na hEireann, which roughly translates as soldiers of Ireland, was among the most active and deadly dissident groups opposed to the peace process.

Its membership includes a number of former senior figures from the Provisional IRA including so-called "big names" from Belfast, Londonderry, South Armagh and north Louth in the Republic of Ireland.

The group has been responsible for a number of attacks, including the attempted murder of Catholic police officer Peadar Heffron in 2009.

Mr Heffron, a fluent Irish speaker and prominent Gaelic footballer, lost a leg and uses a wheelchair as a result of the bomb which was detonated as he drove to work from Randalstown, Co Antrim.

It was also behind a bomb attack on the Northern Ireland headquarters of MI5 at Palace Barracks in Holywood, Co Down. Although there were no serious injuries, damage was caused to nearby houses when the car bomb exploded as the area was being evacuated.

The group was believed to have gathered information on Catholic police recruit Constable Ronan Kerr, who was killed outside his home in Omagh, Co Tyrone, in March 2011.

More recently, ONH has been blamed for punishment-style shootings targeting alleged drug dealers in Belfast and Londonderry.

The scene at Palace Barracks in Holywood, Co Down where a car bomb exploded in an attack by Óglaigh na hÉireann. Credit: Presseye

There is no place and no justification for violence and I call on all other dissident groups to follow suit. We hope and anticipate that this ceasefire will be proven to be definitive and comprehensive in word and in deed.

– Tánaiste Simon Coveney

Outgoing Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams welcomed the announcement and said there was "no justification for the continued existence of armed groups either unionist or republican."

Responding to the statement, the PSNI’s Assistant Chief Constable in charge of Crime Operations, Stephen Martin, said: “As we approach the 20th anniversary of the Multi-Party Agreement this declaration indicates that some violent dissident republicans are at last starting to recognise that violence is not a bargaining chip for peace in today’s society.

“Our communities do not want to live in fear of violence and my challenge to ONH is to meet people’s expectations and cease using violence immediately. This includes all types of organised criminality within communities.”

The group has announced it is to suspend all actions against the ‘British State’, however, for years now, members have been heavily involved in extreme violence against people living in their own communities.

– ACC Stephen Martin, PSNI

“Including carrying out brutal beatings and shootings, as well as menacing acts of intimidation to create fear and control. These vicious attacks must also be consigned to the past. It will be deeds that count ultimately, not words,” ACC Martin continued.

“Uppermost in my mind today are those who suffered, often most grievously, at the hands of ONH over the last decade.

“I urge ONH to live up to its commitment and also to take the further steps I’ve outlined. I would say to other groups involved in violence and criminality to follow suit and also stop immediately.

“I would like to reassure everyone living in Northern Ireland that the PSNI will continue to actively pursue and investigate those involved in acts of terrorism, violence and criminality and place them before the courts in order to protect society and keep people safe.”