They were meant to be relegated to history. This weekend as people gather across Ireland to commemorate the Easter Rising, there are men and women still prepared to take up arms against the British.
They are vigorously opposed by both the London and Dublin governments. Their views are overwhelmingly rejected by the majority of the Irish people. But that doesn't perturb them.
One republican dissident says: "The words of Patrick Pearse in 1915 are as relevant now as they were then. 'We have no misgivings, no self-questionings. We have the strength and peace of mind of those who never compromise'."
A year ago, the Real IRA stepped out of the darkness at Massereene, shot dead two British soldiers, and showed that armed republicanism remained a force to be reckoned with in the 21st century.
Two days later, the Continuity IRA murdered PSNI officer Stephen Carroll. The media predicted a frenzy of imminent activity. They were wrong. The dissidents operate according to their own timetable. They sat still, knowing the security services were monitoring their every move. It wasn't until three months later in August that they began to rally.
Since then there have been attempts to kill police and judges, bombs outside a courthouse and Policing Board headquarters, plus attempted mortar and landmine attacks. Derry, Belfast, East Tyrone, Co Antrim, south Armagh, Co Fermanagh, north Armagh, south Derry – the geographical spread of dissident activity is growing and they're gaining activists in traditional Provisional IRA strong-holds.
Worryingly for the Irish government, dissident activity is increasing across the border. Dissidents claim they smashed a drugs gang in Cavan. In January, the Real IRA shot dead a heroin dealer in Cork and threatened to kill more. Justice minister Dermot Ahern has spoken of "significant pockets" of dissidents in the Republic.
So who joins these groups and why? Are their leaders unthinking militarists or do they have a strategy? Do they want to talk to the British or are they interested only in war? Are they "criminal gangs" as Sinn Féin's Martin McGuinness and PSNI chief constable Matt Baggott, have branded them? Has Sinn Féin any influence over them?
Warning of the growing dissident threat, Ahern said: "It's a constant battle. As soon as you put some into prison, others pop up." In Lurgan, Republican Sinn Féin member and ex-Continuity IRA prisoner, Martin Duffy, agrees: "Support for resistance to British rule is very high in this area and it's growing all the time.
"I was jailed for possession of an AK-47 in 1998 when I was 28. I was the only republican prisoner in Maghaberry after the signing of the Good Friday agreement.
"Now there are 10 Lurgan men in jail. The threat of imprisonment never has, and never will, put off republicans."
The local Republican Sinn Féin cumann has 30 members, Duffy says: "We sell 500 copies of our newspaper Saoirse here every month. The media don't carry our statements so we do leaflet drops around the doors. People are arrested regularly. I was lifted five weeks ago. One local family has had seven members arrested this year alone. It doesn't deter anybody."
In February, police were attacked with bricks and iron bars when they entered two Lurgan estates. "They called everybody in sight Fenian bastards and fired three plastic bullets," says Duffy. "One young lad was hit in the stomach but it doesn't stop resistance." PSNI area commander Jason Murphy warned dissidents "to expect a knock on the door" from his officers. "Expect a booby-trap behind it," was the reply.
To republicans like Duffy, Gerry Adams is a figure for ridicule. Last week, the Sinn Féin leader flew by helicopter from Belfast to join wealthy businessmen for a Dublin lunch. Such private helicopter hire costs £2,200.
"Adams has lost the run of himself," says Duffy. "Why couldn't he just drive down? Republicans traditionally use helicopters only to escape from jail. Gerry Adams' lifestyle is a million miles from that of ordinary working-class nationalists. He thinks he's a world leader or Hollywood film star."
Regarding republican violence, Dermot Ahern said: "The threat on this island is as dangerous as at any time during the Troubles." Ahern is wrong. Although intensifying, the dissident campaign is nowhere near the level of the Provisionals during the height of the conflict.
The Real IRA has been responsible for most attacks since Massereene and is the deadliest organisation. However, it was Oglaigh na hEireann (ONH), a Real IRA splinter group, which has this year come closest to inflicting a security force fatality when an under-car bomb critically injured PSNI officer, Peadar Heffron, in January.
ONH has a "scattering of members in Derry, Dublin and the (southern) border counties", according to a source. It's strongest in south Armagh and particularly in Belfast where its commander has been extremely pro-active regarding recruitment. "He's swelled the ranks and they're armed to the teeth. He's built something out of nothing in a very short space of time," says the source.
ONH has 60 members in Belfast, although they're mainly involved in 'punishment' attacks which the organisation views as a means of gaining popularity and a profile in working-class areas.
But the biggest threat to the security forces comes from an independent group of seasoned republicans – based in south Derry, north Armagh, and west Belfast – who have recently left the Provisionals alleging a sell-out. In Belfast, they include men who were among the IRA's best operators with many successful "hits" under their belt.
These independent republicans work with both ONH and the Real IRA but refuse to join either for security reasons and because it gives them more freedom. The implicit trust these men, who are nearly all in their 40s, have for each other was developed during their years in the Provisionals.
ONH has made huge advances in developing under-car booby trap bombs. The 250lb Real IRA bomb, which exploded outside Newry courthouse last month, shows a bomb-maker in that organisation has finally got "the mix" right for home-made devices. Sources say ONH is against the use of such car or van bombs because of the risk to civilians if warnings go wrong.
However, the car bomb remains an integral part of the Real IRA's campaign. Regarding the current conflict, the Real IRA takes a long-term view. A republican source says: "The IRA is in this for the long haul. No one believes a British withdrawal is around the corner.
"It's about challenging the 'normalisation policy' that portrays the conflict in the North as settled. It's about keeping republicanism alive and showing the British that, while they remain in Ireland, there will always be people prepared to resist them."
By murdering convicted heroin dealer Gerard 'Topper' Staunton in Cork, the Real IRA is attempting to build support in working-class urban communities in the Republic in the same way the Provisionals once did.
In a statement, the Real IRA's Cork Brigade said it had "a list of drug dealers marked for execution". It accused gardai and the courts of inaction. It named as a target one man who received a suspended sentence after the largest ever seizure of heroin in Cork. The Real IRA chillingly warned: "If this case is not reviewed, we may deem ourselves to be both judge and executioner."
The Sunday Tribune understands the British government is keen to talk to all dissident groups. The Real IRA is said to be uninterested. A republican source says: "The armed struggle is nowhere near at a level to convince the British to withdraw so what would there be to talk about? The only aim the British would have in such talks would be to buy off the IRA.
"The British would attempt to offer grants or community jobs in exchange for an end to armed struggle. If IRA leaders were interested in such things, they would have stayed with the Provisionals. The British fail to understand the IRA." ONH, like the Real IRA, has no channel of communication with the British. However, sources say ONH believes "it would be foolish to rule out talking to the British in future".
Dissident republicans dismiss the PSNI's ability on the ground. Twenty minutes after the Real IRA bomb exploded at Newry courthouse, police received reports that the getaway car was on fire in Dromintee, South Armagh.
The car, which could have contained vital forensic clues, lay abandoned for two days. It then went missing – local people say it was stripped by members of the travelling community – before being recovered by the PSNI.
The police are seriously under-resourced in south Armagh but the dissidents don't rate them anyway. "They're clueless. The old hands from the RUC who would be more savvy have either retired or, if they've stayed, are disillusioned with the PSNI so they don't give a damn," a republican says.
Yet the dissidents aren't complacent: "Ultimately, the key is the intelligence the police get from MI5. The security services could be just biding their time, waiting to pick people up. There have been huge technological advances in under-cover surveillance since 1994. We are facing much more than the Provos ever did.
"All republican groups are infiltrated, the question is to what extent, and the success of our efforts to combat it." MI5 spends £40m a year on counter-insurgency in the North. It employs 400 people at its super-base in Holywood, Co Down, and 60% of all electronic information intercepted through wire taps and covert operations in Britain and the North relates to dissidents.
Last month was a good one for the security services. Four west Belfast men - aged between 18 and 34 ? were charged with arms possession after a car was stopped.
In Armagh, another two men were charged: Niall Ward (23) with possession of a pipe bomb and William Wong (21) – whose father is Malaysian – with possession of latex gloves and a lighter with intent to commit a terrorist act. In court, 25 supporters cheered and applauded.
There have been extensive resignations, including of very senior members, from the Provisionals in East Tyrone. However, Derry remains the dissidents' strongest area. Last week, the 32 County Sovereignty Movement distributed 5,000 free copies of its magazine, Beir Bua, in the city.
Michael Gallagher (30), a Sovereignty Movement member previously imprisoned for Real IRA offences, says: "Republicans literally don't listen to Sinn Féin anymore. When Martin McGuinness began to speak at the Bloody Sunday rally in January, up to half the crowd walked away."
Last month, PSNI chief constable Matt Baggott compared dissidents to the Brixton street gangs, and Martin McGuinness said of the Real IRA: "It isn't an army we are dealing with but a gang."
Gallagher says dismissively: "Martin McGuinness is a British crown minister and Matt Baggott is the head of the British state's armed wing. He's just the latest Englishman in Ireland criminalising republicans."
Another Derry republican states: "Martin McGuinness was on the streets himself in the early '70s when the Brits labelled republican rioters 'Derry's Young Hooligans'. This is nothing new."
Last month, the Sovereignty Movement delivered letters to shops, cafes and businesses in Derry advising them not to serve the PSNI. A 24-year-old worker was subsequently suspended by Sainsbury's supermarket for refusing to serve a policeman. Dissidents stormed District Policing Partnership (DPP) meetings in Derry last year which are now held in the unionist Waterside part of the city.
Former civil rights leader Eamonn McCann says while there's no appetite for a return to war, dissidents have more passive support than polite society pretends: "Whole communities have been left behind. There's been no peace dividend. People are still living in run-down estates with poor health and education services, and low-paid jobs or no jobs.
"They see the beaming faces on TV of the richly rewarded Stormont political elite, and they know they've been abandoned. They think, 'Well, even if we don't agree with the dissidents, at least they're still fighting'."
Ex-IRA prisoner Anthony McIntyre, who now strongly opposes 'armed struggle', says Sinn Féin can't logically challenge the dissidents: "Calling them a micro-group is pointless. The IRA was always a micro-group which never cared for electoral mandates.
"The Real IRA is stronger than the IRA was in the 1940s. The Real IRA is at the point where the Provos were at the start of the conflict in 1969. But big emotional events followed – the Falls Road curfew, the Battle of Bombay Street, internment and Bloody Sunday – that led to greater support for the Provos.
"The dissidents lack such catalysts. I don't think the British are so stupid as to repeat past mistakes, but you never know. A few years ago, the Paras came within seconds of firing live rounds at nationalists protesting about loyalist marches in Ardoyne. That would have been the new Bloody Sunday."
McIntyre says Sinn Féin is a laughing stock among republicans: "The party now sells its own 'Only Our Rivers Run Free' bottled spring water which offers 'a taste of a united Ireland'. That says it all. There's no strategy left. Sinn Féin is just about gimmicks and the personality cult of Adams and McGuinness."
Sinn Féin certainly has no influence over dissidents. After Gerry Adams recently appeared on a Channel 4 documentary in the Holy Land talking about Jesus, graffiti on the Falls Road declared: 'Gerry Adams What A W**ker'.
Sinn Féin remains electorally strongly with the general nationalist population. But among the traditional republican community, the people who supported the Provisionals through thick and thin during the conflict, the dissidents are making inroads.