A retired British army leader tonight hit out at counterfeit Irish republicanism for endangering the future of peace on the island.
Colonel Tim Collins achieved international fame when he made a rousing speech to British soldiers hours before the invasion of Iraq.
At a debate in Dublin, he said there was a huge opportunity for the Republic to extend the hand of friendship to the unionist community in the North.
But he warned that there was also a snake in the grass.
“It can only happen in the Republic of Ireland if you deal with the menace of counterfeit Irish republicanism conceived in the back streets of Belfast,” he said.
Mr Collins said he had been furious on a recent visit to the republican plot in Crossmaglen, south Armagh, to find an inscription to two IRA bombers: “To two Irish patriots from Poblacht Na hÉireann”.
“When I look at the stretched white limousines driving around the streets of Crossmaglen and the drug smugglers and the pornographers and the counterfeiters, how dare they besmirch the name of that organisation?” said Mr Collins.
“It (counterfeiter republicanism) can only be confronted by a confident new Ireland enjoying an entire breadth of its complex historical path.”
Mr Collins was speaking at a debate organised by the Philosophical Society in Trinity College, Dublin, on Ireland’s forgotten heroes and its debt to history.
He paid tribute to the Irish soldiers from both sides of the border who had served in the first battalion of the Royal Irish Regiment, which he commanded in Iraq.
He said they all had a shared pride in serving in an Irish regiment and said it was very true when Kipling wrote: “Irishmen moved to the sound of guns like salmon to the sea.”
Mr Collins said the problem in the relationship between the two peoples on the island of Ireland had to be addressed first by the Irish Government.
“I cannot tell you of the lack of sophistication in the politics of Northern Ireland. It is so backward, it is almost beyond help. The hand of friendship needs to come from this direction,” he said.
Mr Collins received an OBE for his role in the invasion of Iraq in 2003 but had to defend himself against allegations of involvement in war crimes, until he was cleared by a military tribunal.
He retired from the British Army in 2004 and is currently working on a television documentary about the Irish influence in the battle for control of north Africa in World War II.