By Ray O’Hanlon
It could be months before a decision on whether to include the "Real IRA" on the State Department’s "Terrorist Watch List" is finally reached.
However, the State Department and other U.S. government agencies are understood to be actively investigating both the Real IRA and its supposed political arm, the 32 County Sovereignty Committee, with a view to both being potentially added to the list.
Currently, the watch list contains mainly Middle East-based groups such as Hamas. No Irish group is listed.
The watch list was born out of recently enacted anti-terrorist legislation in Congress. Inclusion on it can result in severe penalties and restrictions.
One Irish American attorney, who preferred not to be named, described the list as being "America’s equivalent to internment."
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Last week, the Echo reported that the federal government was intent on moving against the Real IRA in particular in the wake of the Omagh bombing.
The watch list first emerged into public view late last year. The Echo reported at the time that there had been "a vigorous debate" between the White House and State Department over possible inclusion on it of the Provisional IRA.
The White house won that argument and the Provisionals avoided listing. Had they been included, U.S. law enforcement agencies would have been cleared to target even political supporters of both the IRA and Sinn Féin in the U.S.
Inclusion would almost certainly have resulted in denial of visas to Sinn Féin leaders such as Gerry Adams and would have halted fund-raising for the party in the U.S.
The State Department watch list, mandated by 1996 congressional legislation, is distinct from the department’s other terrorist list, the annual "Patterns of Global Terrorism" report.
The Provisional IRA has been included on this list in the past as a result of its military campaign. The holding IRA cease-fire means that the Provisionals are certain to be excluded from the upcoming 1998 "Patterns" report.
Equally, the Provisionals would not appear to be immediate targets for inclusion on the more punitive "watch" list. The same, however, can’t be said for its lethal offshoot, the Real IRA.
Deportees Want Closure
The group of Irish nationals known as the deportees is calling for an absolute end to the cases against them.
The men and their families released a statement this week describing the cases, frozen in place by the Clinton administration a year ago, as political anachronisms.
The statement said that following the recent screening of the CBS documentary on the deportees, "Don’t Take My Daddy," the families were inundated with congratulatory calls but also expressions of dismay that the cases were still dragging on.
"Our families need closure on these cases. . . . If we are truly to see a future for Ireland and the Irish people, it must also include these Irish American families who have waited so long for their new beginning," the statement said.
It concluded by urging people to contact members of Congress and the White House urging permanent U.S. residency for the deportees.
Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams is expected in the U.S. next month for a fund-raising tour covering a number of East Coast cities. The visit is currently set for Oct. 10-18, according to Friends of Sinn Féin.
€ The newly formed group Irish Americans Support Pete King is planning a cocktail reception for the GOP representative on Thursday, Sept. 17, from 6-8 p.m. at the Plaza Hotel in Manhattan. The cost is $150 per person. For details, (212) 587-3300.
€ "Mere words cannot express the anger we feel over this monstrous act," said Ancient Order of Hibernians National President Thomas Gilligan in the wake of the Omagh bombing. "This dreadful deed plays into the hands of the very security forces we wish to see abolished and removed from Ireland," Gilligan said in a statement that also urged "no cessation in efforts to arrest and prosecute those who committed this crime."