By Patrick Markey
The Real IRA, the dissident republican group that admitted responsibility for the devastating bomb attack on Omagh, has suspended its campaign of violence and military operations as of midnight Tuesday, according to published reports in Ireland.
The group, formed after several leading IRA members broke away in disagreement with the Good Friday Agreement, said it would suspend attacks indefinitely and open a process of “consultation” on its future direction.
The group cited pressure from Taoiseach Bertie Ahern in their decision. On Tuesday Ahern had delivered an ultimatum, giving all dissident republican groups 24 hours to declare a cease-fire.
British and Irish leaders reacted cautiously to the statement, vowing to bring those responsible to justice.
“We would welcome any suspension of violence, and let’s be clear that, I stress, in the statement it’s only a suspension,” Secretary of State Mo Mowlam said on the BBC’s Today program in response to questions about the Real IRA statement.
Never miss an issue of The Irish Echo
Subscribe to one of our great value packages.
“On a day when 16 people, 16 victims are buried I think it is an insult to believe words mean anything,” she said.
After a Irish cabinet meeting early Wednesday, Ahern’s office called for assurances that the violence was over.
“It is cold comfort to the injured and bereaved of Omagh and to every right thinking person on this island and beyond to hear those who so recently admitted responsibility for this atrocity tell us now they have suspended the armed operations while they consult with one another about their future direction,” the government statement said.
That statement also mapped out security and legislative changes prompted by the Omagh incident, including additional resources for g_rda border operations and strengthening the Offences Against the State Act. New security measures include restrictions on bail for suspected terrorists and an extension of incarceration from 48 to 72 hours before charges are filed. Internment as a method of dealing with terrorism has been considered and remains an option despite its drawbacks, the statement said.
The Real IRA statement came as more of the 28 bombing victims were buried. More than 200 were also left injured in the worst bomb attack in Northern Ireland’s history.
Earlier on Tuesday, the “Real” or “True” IRA had admitted responsibility for the deadly explosion, saying that the street was a legitimate commercial target and that there had been no intent to kill civilians. The group’s claim that they gave three warnings and 40 minutes notice prior to the explosion conflicts with accounts given by news organizations who received the warnings.
The INLA, another dissident group opposed to the peace process have also indicated interest in declaring a cease-fire. The Loyalist armed force the LVF have already declared a cease-fire.