Fine Gael’s Justice spokesman Charlie Flanagan told the Dáil that he had been alerted to the existence of one website used by the 32 County Sovereignty Movement by a member of the public.
The claim came as the North witnessed scenes it thought belonged to the past, as former IRA member John Brady was buried after men wearing military fatigues and balaclavas gave him a handgun salute.
Mr Brady, then a member of the Provisional IRA, was jailed for life in 1989 after his role in a car bomb which killed at RUC reserve officer in Strabane. He was released under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement, but recently was arrested over a domestic dispute in Derry. He hanged himself in a police cell last Saturday night.
At yesterday’s funeral service the four hooded men gave a gun salute outside Mr Brady’s Strabane home, which prompted applause among the 400-strong crowd of mourners. His coffin, draped in a tricolour, was taken by hearse through the streets of the town. His body was to be buried at Doneyloop cemetery in Co Donegal.
As those scenes played themselves out in the North, in the Dáil Mr Flanagan said the minister for justice had to take steps to ban the possible recruitment of dissident republicans online.
In the course of a debate on the new Communications (Data Retention) Bill, Mr Flanagan said: “I received a phone call recently from a concerned citizen telling me that dissident republicans were using the internet to recruit members.
“I was directed to a website used by the 32 County Sovereignty Movement to recruit members and spread hatred. This group has reportedly been recently engaged in vigilante activity in Cavan, Fermanagh and Cork.”
He said the group’s use of the internet was “unsurprising”.
“It is a relatively unobtrusive and covert way for dissident republicans to get their message out and recruit members. Accordingly, in the context of this Bill, we can see how the retention of internet data for a period of 12 months is important.”
Yesterday, on the website of the Derry 32 County Sovereignty Movement, a website report said the group would be launching a National Recruitment Drive, backed by a poster and internet campaign.
The group, which claims to have been founded in Fingal, Dublin, in 1997, also featured footage of Mr Brady’s funeral on the website yesterday.