I got a puzzled email in the last few days from one reader asking why so many INLA members turned out for Peggy O’Hara’s funeral in Derry when the INLA is on ceasefire and dissident, anti-process activity has almost ceased.
As you can see from the photos below the INLA turnout was impressive, as big or perhaps bigger than the group could muster when the bullets were flying:
The experience of republican groups during the Troubles was that when ceasefires were called, as they were for the Officials in 1972 and for the Provos between 1975-76, 1994-1996 and 1997 onwards, membership surged but as soon as it seemed that life might get hairy again, it dwindled like air escaping from a balloon – as it did for the Officials during several inter-republican feuds in the Seventies and the Provos in 1977 and 1997.
There was even a name for such people: ceasefire soldiers.
I suspect the same thing has happened with the INLA. Now that there is next to no risk attached to being a member, and while being one of the lads still carries some clout in the communities, the INLA has probably experienced a upsurge in recruitment. Expect that to reverse if the INLA resumes hostilities.