The Real IRA's first interview post-Massereene shows it to be more bullish than ever. Neither the passionate denunciation of Sinn Féin leaders, nor the condemn­ation of wider Irish society, has affected the organisation one iota.

Its language is uncompromisingly militant. There are none of the nuances we came to hear from Sinn Féin and Provisional IRA figures from the mid-1980s onwards. If the Real IRA had a slogan it would be, 'An armalite in one hand and we don't do ballot boxes'.

However much mainstream opinion, both nationalist and unionist, might revile Real IRA leaders, it's a mistake to believe they're stupid or insane. The Army Council representative's words were chillingly ruthless. But they were well thought-out.

There were no mad-cap boasts that the Real IRA would "free Ireland" in a few years.

The organisation has a strategy in the short- to medium-term: to disrupt the normalisation of Northern Ireland and to draw the security forces back into an openly combative role.

It also aims, as the Provisionals once did, to destabilise any political settlement short of a united Ireland. While the Stormont Executive has shown remarkable unity so far, pressure on it will increase in the event of further killings or bombings and community tensions will rise.

The Northern peace process was held up internationally as a shining example. While it's certainly not disintegrating, it appears slightly tarnished after Massereene and Craigavon. The days of the gunmen and bombers were meant to be well and truly over.

When I first interviewed the Real IRA last year, its deadly intent was obvious. But there was still a public impression of its members as incompetent armchair generals or bar-stool republicans who could only talk the talk.

That has all too tragically been proven wrong. The Real IRA's open contempt for the Provisionals shows it doesn't fear them. While once the organisation believed the mainstream IRA might try to wipe it out, that possibility receded as the Provisionals moved further into the peace process.

The Real IRA's survival will depend on several factors: whether or not ordinary nationalists inform on it to police; if it's developed shadow structures to function in the event of key personnel being arrested; and if it avoids such atrocities as Omagh in which 29 civilians were massacred.

Nationalist Ireland regards the Easter Rising leaders as heroes. They certainly don't share that view of the Real IRA. When I asked its Army Council representative what he made of that, he was dismissive: "The men and women of 1916 were outcasts in their time. They were actually spat on by ordinary Dubliners as they were being led away by the British. Being popular doesn't concern us."