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32 County committee vows to challenge terror designation

February 16, 2011

By Staff Reporter

By Susan Falvella-Garraty

WASHINGTON, D.C. — After a U.S. Appeals court last week upheld the State Department’s designation of the 32 County Sovereignty Committee and the Irish Republican Prisoners’ Welfare Association as terrorist organizations, the lawyer representing the groups said on Monday that there is new hope of overturning that decision.

Lynne Bernabei, the groups’ lawyer, said in an interview that a federal judge in California over the weekend ruled in favor of an Iranian group that had similarly been categorized as a terrorist organization by the State Department and had been deprived of assets and the ability to raise funds.

“The judge said in the Iranian case that it was unconstitutional for the State Department to be able to brand an organization without any chance to

challenge the status — it’s a fundamental shutting down of due process that the Constitution provides,” she said.

Both radical Irish republican organizations are considered fronts for the

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Real IRA by U.S., Irish, and British governments. They are publicly opposed to the Good Friday peace agreement, while the Real IRA has carried out several bomb attacks since it came into being in early 1998, after the Provisional IRA’s cease-fire and subsequent peace process that led to the Good Friday agreement.

The Real IRA was responsible for the car bomb attack in Omagh, Co. Tyrone, in August 1998 in which 29 people were killed.

Judge Raymond Randolph and the two other justices on the panel unanimously agreed in a finding that the two groups had supported the Real IRA.

“The judges based their decision on secret information,” Bernabei said, “but with the California judge’s decision finding the whole process unconstitutional, we will prepare to offer a challenge most likely in the 2nd Circuit in New York in the next month.” An eventual appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court is also possible, she said.

The 32-County Sovereignty Committee’s former leader, Mickey McKevitt, faces legal battles of his own in Dublin. The group was infiltrated by an American, David Rupert, allegedly at the direction of the FBI. Various dramatic descriptions of Rupert’s checkered history, which allegedly includes four wives, bankruptcies, and owed back taxes, have led defenders of the 32 County and Prisoner’s Welfare groups to charge that Rupert traded his testimony in exchange for legal leniency.

The U.S. State Department stated that the Real IRA was “formed in February-March 1998 as a clandestine armed wing of the 32-County Sovereignty Movement, a “political pressure group” dedicated to removing British forces from Northern Ireland and unifying Ireland.” It has frozen the monetary assets of the two groups, closed their offices, and had an American based supporters’ website shut down.

“This is all an attempt to guard the American-brokered Irish peace process,

and it’s a payoff to America’s good friend Tony Blair by squelching any spoken dissent by those who do not agree with them,” Bernabei said.

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