Unsuccessful extensions to the IRA brand

Just hours after two British troops were killed alongside a couple of pizza delivery guys, a policeman gets murdered too, possibly by a different group. While the circumstances are tragic, there’s a heartening kernel here: the fact that two IRA splinter groups, the Real and Continuity IRA subbrands, have been widely condemned by both sides of the religious divide.

I’d have no problem seeing the island of Ireland as one country; the days of empire are over. Either way, it’s up to the Irish themselves – and the peace process, however tortuous, is an amazing thing after decades of terrorism. (Like all territorial disputes, it depends where you draw the line in history. Northern Ireland today wants to remain British… but that’s because they’re descended from English settlers and are Protestant. In any referendum, Northern Ireland would vote to remain British, the rest of the island to reunify as Irish.) Like all religious disputes – Shia/Sunni, Christian/Jewish, Wars/Trek – the biggest conflicts are between those whose differences in belief are tiny.

But back to the brand extension. It’s notable neither of the newer brands have ‘taken’: the Real IRA probably has fewer than 100 members, the Continuity IRA even fewer. And I bet the two groups hate each other, and the latest attacks were aimed basically at each other (with soldiers, pizza guys, and police as the innocent victims.) Frustrated by the lack of traction their brands are getting, and longing for the glory days of the 70s and 80s when the IRA was the market leader in terrorism, they’re boxing themselves into a niche brand corner where only a few fanatics will buy what they’re selling. (Spain’s ETA is doing the same.) And that can only be a good thing.

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