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'turning point' Fomer Republican Sinn Fein president says there is no longer support for a 'armed campaign'

'There is now a shift in people’s thinking. That is very clear."

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Former Republican Sinn Fein president Sinn Fein Des Dalton

Former Republican Sinn Fein president Sinn Fein Des Dalton

Former Republican Sinn Fein president Sinn Fein Des Dalton

Former Republican Sinn Féin president Sinn Féin Des Dalton says the murder of journalist Lyra McKee was a turning point for armed republicans.

And speaking to the Sunday World this week, he questioned the ability of dissidents still engaged in republican violence.

He said he seriously doubted the capacity of armed groups to sustain a military campaign north of the border.

Earlier this week, Dalton resigned from RSF after he was suspended over remarks he made in an interview which includes his views the campaign of violence being waged by dissident republicans.

The 49-year-old said he had no choice but to quit the party after 30 years’ involvement.

In a recent online discussion on the future of Ireland, hosted by the University of Liverpool’s Institute of Irish Studies, Dalton said armed actions by dissident groups were hampering an end to partition.

And in an interview with the Sunday World this week, the Kildare-based historian also said that the death of Lyra McKee (29) during rioting in Derry two years ago actually created an opportunity for all republican groups for quit violence.

Condemning the attack, Dalton said: “It was an absolute tragedy, there’s no doubt about that. And it was also counter to the republican struggle to create a united Ireland.”

He added: “But there is now a shift in people’s thinking. That is very clear.

“The support levels for an armed campaign just aren’t there.

“I’ve never been involved in any armed groups myself, but it appears to me those who are, don’t have the capabilities to carry on this type of activity.

“An armed action every now and again doesn’t constitute a campaign,” he said.

Dalton also pointed to remarks by the former DUP leader Peter Robinson three years ago when he said he didn’t expect his house to burn down, but he still paid insurance against it happening.

The veteran unionist politician used the analogy to reflect his concerns over a future united Ireland.

“Because I don’t expect it to happen, doesn’t mean it’s not going to happen,” said Robinson.

But Dalton maintains his current position on armed struggle was in keeping with republican thinking at the time of two previous IRA ceasefires in 1923 and 1962.

He added: “In not naive enough to think Brexit is going to create a united Ireland, but a combination of Brexit and other issues in the United Kingdom have radically altered things.

“For instance the Scottish position on independence could change everything dramatically.

“And I believe armed action is a simply distraction from the discussion and debate which is going on at the moment,” he said.

Dalton was the President of Republican Sinn Féin from 2009 until 2018.

He was arrested but not charged by the PSNI in Lurgan following clashes over an illegal republican parade.

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