Never let it be said that Irish republicans are slow to jump onto a passing bandwagon. As the Occupy protests spread from city to city, the Real IRA issued a statement claiming credit for two bomb attacks on Northern Irish banks. Santander branches in Newry and Derry City were targeted over the summer. According to the group’s leadership, ‘such attacks are an integral part of our strategy of targeting the financial infrastructure that supports the British government’s capitalist colonial system in Ireland,’ and would ‘send out the message that while the Irish national and class struggles are distinct, they are not separate.’
This isn’t the first time republicans have focused on the financial industry. In the early 1990s, the Provisional IRA devastated the City of London with a series of ‘blockbuster’ bombs; one device cost the City almost half a billion pounds. The banking sector has been important for republicanism as a source of cash. Both the Provos and the Official IRA showed a talent for bank robbery, using it to fund arms purchases and above-ground activity until it became too politically embarrassing. But where are the RIRA going to get money if all the banks are gone? (Colonel Gaddafi can no longer sponsor.)
The Guardian’s Henry McDonald, who received the latest communiqué, noted that its tone was reminiscent of 1970s European ultra-left groups, who also targeted bankers and industrialists. Although it doesn’t have the glamour of Baader-Meinhof, the RIRA has a fair bit in common with the Red Army Faction: just as they claimed to see no difference between the Third Reich and the Federal Republic, the RIRA talks as if the Orange State and its sectarian machinery have not been altered in the slightest since the Provisional IRA began its campaign.
Their statement suggested one promising course:
In the Six Counties, the effective power of the system is vested in heavily armed Police Service of Northern Ireland units who, ultimately, enforce bank repossessions of homes… the PSNI is not a police force, it is a political militia and a social control tool.
So why don’t they organise people to resist home repossessions? If republicans want to expose the PSNI as a tool of the establishment, what better way than by getting them to swing their truncheons on behalf of the banks?