DUBLIN (Reuters) - Brexit has provided the militant Irish nationalist group that admitted killing journalist Lyra McKee with a chance to further its campaign against British rule in Northern Ireland, the Sunday Times quoted its leadership as saying.
The New IRA, one of a small number of groups that opposes Northern Ireland’s 1998 peace deal, has said one of its members shot the 29-year-old reporter dead in Londonderry last week when opening fire on police during a riot McKee was watching.
The killing, which followed a large car bomb in Londonderry in January that police also blamed on the New IRA, has raised fears that small marginalised militant groups are exploiting a political vacuum in the province and tensions caused by Britain’s decision to leave the European Union.
“Brexit has forced the IRA to refocus and has underlined how Ireland remains partitioned. It would be remiss of us not to capitalise on the opportunity,” the newspaper quoted one of its members as saying.
“It’s put the border on the agenda again,” the militant said.
The Sunday Times said the interview took months to arrange through discreet contacts and secret meetings with nationalists and their supporters north and south of the border. Its reporter was driven for about an hour in the back of a vehicle from an arranged meeting point to conduct the interview.
The New IRA is far smaller than the Irish Republican Army (IRA), which disarmed after the peace accord mostly ended three decades of conflict between mainly Protestant supporters of continued British rule of the province and mainly Catholic proponents of unification with the Irish Republic.
The group was formed in 2012 after three of the four main militant nationalist groups merged, the first time since the peace deal that most of the disparate nationalist groups still intent on violence came together under one leadership.
It has been responsible for other attacks since then, including the separate killings of two prison officers. The Sunday Times said the group, which simply refers to itself as the ‘IRA’, refused to discuss their strength, or whether they planned to increase gun and bomb attacks.
“Our armed actions serve one purpose. They are symbolic. They are propaganda. They let the world know there is an ongoing conflict in Northern Ireland,” another of the members said.
“As long as you have the British in Ireland and the country remains partitioned, there will be an IRA.”
Reporting by Padraic Halpin; Editing by Toby Chopra