Dissident republican bosses owe a huge debt of gratitude to the criminal gang responsible for the murder of their cherished comrade Alan Ryan.
When two drug dealers sent a hitman to execute the Real IRA boss on a sunny September afternoon, they inadvertently breathed new life into the 'cause' of a more dangerous form of militant republicanism.
The picture published on our front page of Ryan laid out in his coffin in his family home in Dublin, watched over by his masked comrades in paramilitary attire, is a defining icon of the imaginary struggle.
The criminal gang responsible for his death gave the shadowy leaders of a new dissident republican alliance an opportunity to transform the extortionist and murderer into a martyr for the cause. The gangster is now painted as a patriot who gave his life for the downtrodden underclass – a modern-day equivalent of Bobby Sands.
The hunger striker, who died before Ryan's first birthday, even makes a special guest appearance in the iconic photo, smiling from behind a candle on the mantelpiece.
The striking image is classic republican propaganda, which the leaders are using in their efforts to galvanise dissidents everywhere into action. It also proves attractive to the young impressionable kids now being lured into the ranks of an organisation hell-bent on driving us all back into the Dark Ages.
Ryan's high-profile killing could not have come at a better time for the godfathers of terror: it was the catalyst for what they are calling a "root and branch" reform of dissident republicanism.
One of the most worrying developments in terrorism on this island since the beginning of the peace process occurred with little fanfare just a month before Ryan's death. It was the decision of the disparate republican gangs to amalgamate in a new alliance calling itself simply the IRA.
The group includes the Real IRA, Republican Action Against Drugs (RAAD), Oglaigh na hEireann, members of Eirigi and a rag-tag rabble of other dissenters who feel they got a raw deal from the peace process.
And they have one common goal: to plunge Ireland back into the dark days of the Troubles. The funding for their grand plan will come from organised crime and racketeering: extortion, smuggling, oil laundering, drugs and robbery.
Security chiefs on both sides of the Border are particularly concerned at the increasing number of veteran Provos who have emerged from retirement to join the organisation over recent months.
Some of these individuals were heavily involved in Sinn Féin and the IRA in Dublin, but were kicked out in the 1990s when it was discovered they were lining their own pockets from various criminal rackets.
A number had officially left the republican movement and were involved in the systematic theft of containers from Dublin docks with convicted paedophile and drug trafficker Christy Griffin, from the north inner city.
The veteran Provos had also been involved with Concerned Parents Against Drugs (CPAD), which was formed in the early 1980s in response to the heroin epidemic sweeping Dublin. The Provos infiltrated the organisation and used it as a means of licensing drug dealers – to fund the cause.
'What has emerged is a group much more sinister and ruthless than before. The men directing operations now are from a hard core of ruthless killers who learnt their trade with the Provos," said a security source.
"A lot of the boys who are coming back into the fold are in their 40s and early 50s. They are all hardline Provos who would have been very involved during the Troubles."
The violent death of Alan Ryan gave the new alliance its first big coup. His paramilitary funeral was a depressing reminder of the dark days.