Northern Irish militants threaten to take fight to Britain

BELFAST (Reuters) - One of the nationalist militant groups behind the recent upsurge of violence in Northern Ireland threatened on Monday to take the fight for Irish unity to the British mainland.

A dissident republican colour party parades through Derry's Creggan housing estate on their way to a Republican Memorial service in the city April 5, 2010. REUTERS/Cathal McNaughton

Attacks within Northern Ireland by nationalist splinter groups seeking to end British control of the province are at their highest level since a 1998 peace agreement largely ended three decades of conflict that cost more than 3,600 lives.

“We will target the British apparatus should that be in Belfast, Birmingham or London,” a spokesman for Oglaigh na hEireann, translated as ‘Warriors Of Ireland’, told Belfast-based newspaper The Irish News.

The 1998 deal prepared the ground for a Northern Irish power-sharing government, delicately balanced between former republican and loyalist foes.

Northern Ireland regained control of policing and justice earlier this year but is still dependent on a UK government budget.

The comments from Oglaigh na hEireann came after a British MP said on Sunday he believed militants hoped to stage attacks on the British mainland, possibly against high-profile conferences of political parties.

Oglaigh na hEireann has claimed responsibility for acts in Northern Ireland such as a bomb outside a police station, another outside the British intelligence services headquarters and booby trap bombs under security staff cars.

The spokesman, who said the group was small and largely made up of former members of the Irish Republican Army (IRA), added that no talks had taken place between the British and Irish governments and the dissident groups.

Northern Ireland Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness, a former senior commander in the IRA which has already dumped its arms, said this month’s contact had been made behind the scenes with some splinter groups that have broken away from the IRA.

“There is no dialogue and we aren’t meeting with either the Irish or British governments. There have been indirect attempts at trying to instigate channels of communication,” the Oglaigh na hEireann spokesman said.

“We would only be interested in taking part in talks if they were about negotiating withdrawal and ending British interference in Irish affairs and if they took place within a tight framework,” he said.

Reporting by Ian Graham; editing by Padraic Halpin and Nina Chestney