Posted By: April 30, 2014

Allison Morris. Irish News ( Belfast). Wednesday, April 30, 2014


THE killing of former dissident republican Tommy Crossan was a tragedy for his family but there were few others queuing up to eulogise the 43-year-old. His particular ‘brand’ of republicanism endeared him to few, even within his own community.


The shooting in broad daylight also raises some serious questions about the role that the intelligence agencies still play in Northern Ireland.


Former associates of the west Belfast man claimed he was an informant based on arrests and weapons finds shortly after Crossan had ordered the movement of the guns in question.

Unless, like Denis Donaldson, informers publicly admit their covert role this will always be just speculation.


What is known is that Crossan surrounded himself with a small gang of criminals and ne’er do wells who did his bidding. His recent creation, the Irish Volunteers, a band of exiled and expelled members of other groups – people so toxic that no-one else would have them- banded together in a rogues’ gallery of misfits. 


Crossan’s bidding was mainly making money through robberies and extortion, admitting to the media the burning of a digger belonging to a builder who refused to pay protection money. He also ordered the extortion of a high-profile businessman-turned drug dealer known as ‘witness A’. Three people were later convicted of the blackmail plot. Crossan wasn’t one of them. His murder has yet to be claimed by any organisation. It may be a ‘no claim no blame’ approach but there are plenty of suspects several, of whom are also suspected informers.

Crossan, like many who went before him, appears to have been considered expendable. Given the level of surveillance focused on the dissident groups it seems unlikely there wasn’t some indication that Crossan was about to be killed.


And yet on a glorious spring Good Friday armed men were able to shoot the one time CIRA boss close to one of the busiest roads in west Belfast and make their getaway without detection.


Public opinion of the dissident groups is one of disdain and distrust, even in places considered hardline republican areas.

This is mainly due to the behaviour of people like Crossan.


In Derry the antics of some highly dubious characters has eroded what support anti-peace process republicans had in that area.

In Tyrone a merger group that was considered to be the biggest threat to peace has retreated amid infighting and distrust.


The arrests of Colin Duffy and Alex McCrory has sent those who fear a night behind bars – or worse still a revoked licence – scurrying to dissociate themselves from militancy. Reading from the same choreographed script – for only the most naive would believe that they all had the same ‘Road to Damascus’ style conversion at the same time – they seek a platform wherever they can.


While those with a high profile were able to find a mainstream media platform for their speeches, others have been forced to seek out publicity wherever they can find it.


Their star long since burnt out, they are no longer an attractive media prospect and have to settle for what they can in the interest of self publicity.


It could be argued that the narcissistic nature of the ringleaders of this new movement means they truly believe that they need only say ‘down weapons boys’ and the faithful will follow. Unfortunately in an island that has been dogged by conflict for centuries, young people intent on following into the tradition of militancy are unlikely to take advice from a dishevelled looking ex-prisoner no matter how ‘legendary’ he was back in the day.


The age of some of those arrested in connection with dissident activity over the past 12 months shows a growing number of young people who are attracted for whatever reason, be it social or political, to paramilitary groups.


Young people like those who went before them – some of whom have since made their way into government – think joining an organisation a welcome distraction from the dire economic situation they find themselves in.


In a capitalist society where the gap between the haves and the have-nots is ever growing this is a situation unlikely to change in the coming years.


Instead maybe the way forward is to educate those same young people as to the perils of becoming involved in an organisation led by people such as Crossan who have only their own financial interests at heart.


A lesson in how these people are cast aside when they are no longer of any use or for political expediency, wouldn’t go amiss.


Or like Crossan they too could find themselves at the wrong end of a gun at the precise time when all security force surveillance took the day off.