Category: Archive

Governments may agree on Real IRA status

February 16, 2011

By Staff Reporter

By Andrew Bushe

DUBLIN — A possible joint request from the Irish and British governments to have the Real IRA designated a "Foreign Terrorist Organization" by the U.S. State Department is being discussed in top-level consultations between London and Dublin.

The discussions follow of earlier reported disagreement between both governments over how exactly the dissident republican paramilitary group should be treated by U.S. authorities.

When it first broke the story last month, the Echo reported that the Irish government was resisting British government pressure to designate the Real IRA as an illegal international terrorist organization, one that would be subject to punitive U.S. sanctions.

The Irish government, according to sources cited in the Echo report, was concerned that such a move would make martyrs of the Real IRA and would give the organization undue significance.

Since that report however, there appears to have been a growing meeting of minds between the Irish and British governments on the issue.

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Irish Justice Minister John O’Donoghue and British Northern Secretary of State Peter Mandelson are now due to hold further talks in the near future about the "net practical advantage" of such a move, a Department of Justice spokesman in Dublin said.

Advice on the issue has been sought by the two governments from Garda Commissioner Pat Byrne and the RUC chief constable, Ronnie Flanagan.

Under the U.S. 1996 Anti-Terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act, the State Department periodically reviews the status of a number of foreign organizations.

The law allows the U.S. to make it a crime to collect or provide funds, weapons and other types of support for designated organizations.

People who are members of the organizations are refused visas and are excluded from America and any funds collected for the organization can be seized and frozen.

The Echo previously reported that the U.S. officials were not currently considering placing the Real IRA on the State Department’s list of active global terror groups.

The Provisional IRA is not currently designated as active under the list’s criteria as both the Irish and British governments have affirmed to Washington that its cease-fire, called in August 1997, was and remains a genuine one.

The State Department has kept under review the status of dissident republican groups and a joint approach on the Real IRA by the Irish and British governments would be seen as certain to lead to its designation as an active terrorist group.

"The Irish and British governments are at one in their determination to take every practical measure possible against organizations such as the Real IRA," the Department of Justice spokesman said.

Relatives of the Omagh bombing victims have been calling for both governments to close down the Real IRA’s fund-raising operations in the U.S. and to seize bank accounts in the UK and Ireland.

The Criminal Assets Bureau is believed to be probing the financial affairs of a number of suspected leading members of the organization in Ireland.

At the same time, it is understood that officials are still focussing on the practical benefits and effectiveness of a designation in a situation where the amounts of money being collected so far by the dissident group are relatively small.

There also remains a strong concern that legal sanctions would be counterproductive in the U.S.

Since the Omagh bombing in August 1998, 78 suspected members of the Real IRA have been questioned under Section 30 of the Republic’s Offenses Against the State Act.

Gardai have also carried out 130 searches on homes and businesses throughout the country.

To date, only one person has been charged with offenses relating to the bombing and he will face trial next year before the Special Criminal Court in Dublin.

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