Category: Archive

Real IRA facing tougher U.S. sanctions

February 16, 2011

By Staff Reporter

By Andrew Bushe and Susan Falvella-Garraty

DUBLIN — The Dublin and London governments are to jointly call on the U.S. State Department to designate the Real IRA as an illegal terrorist organization within the U.S.

The State Department is expected to react positively to this request, which, however, could take several months to become fully effective.

This week, both the Irish and British governments are expected to file papers backing the move.

Agreement between Dublin and London follows a vigorous debate between both governments on the merits of declaring the Real IRA illegal on U.S. soil.

For a time, the Irish government had expressed concern that such a move would actually enhance the standing of the Real IRA in republican circles.

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The Real IRA is already included in the State Department’s annually compiled study report of global terrorist groups, "Patterns in Global Terrorism."

However, elevation of the group to the separate "Designated Watch List of Terrorist Organizations" — which would define the Real IRA as an illegal and active terrorist organization — would allow law enforcement agencies greater latitude in clamping down on the group’s activities on U.S. soil.

An example of this would be a bar on fund-raising for the Real IRA in the U.S and a freeze on any assets linked to the group.

The Provisional IRA, once considered active by the State Department, does not currently face such sanctions because of its continuing cease-fire.

The expected move by the State Department is being seen in Washington on one level as a reward to those paramilitary organizations in Northern Ireland, including the Provisionals, that have maintained their cease-fires.

The Real IRA, which is responsible for the Omagh bombing, is already viewed as a terrorist organization, confirmed one White House official.

With designation as an active terrorist group, additional legal powers would be available to American law enforcement officials in dealing with the Real IRA, the official indicated.

The Anglo-Irish approach to Washington follows a report from Garda Commissioner Pat Byrne and RUC Chief Constable Sir Ronnie Flanagan recommending the move.

Irish Justice Minister John O’Donoghue and British Northern Secretary Peter Mandelson have been having consultations about the "net practical advantage" of a designation for several months.

A statement from O’Donoghue said a formal designation under the U.S.’s 1996 Anti-Terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act would make "additional legal powers available to law enforcement officials in dealing with them."

"A specific benefit of the designation, according to the report from the two police chiefs, is that it would provide a deterrent to the Real IRA in gathering financial support in the United States," the statement said.

The minister said the police chiefs gave serious consideration to the concern that designation could be counterproductive — that it could enhance the status of the militant breakaway group.

But they concluded that, on balance, it would make operational sense to have it designated.

Designation will mean it can be considered a crime to collect or provide funds, weapons and other types of support. Any funds collected for it could be seized or frozen and members and supporters could be refused entry to the U.S.

"Against the background of the advice received, both governments have decided that they will now jointly request the U.S. authorities to set in motion the relevant procedures in relation to designation," the statement said.

"By making this request, the two governments are once again underlining their shared commitment to using all means possible to inhibit the activities of the Real IRA, which continues to use violence contrary to the wishes of the people of Ireland, North and South."

The Real IRA has been seen as working in cooperation with another dissident republican organization, the Continuity IRA, and since the 1998 Omagh bombing has carried out a series of bombings and shootings in Northern Ireland and Britain.

Intelligence sources have suggested that the Real IRA might be planning a pre-Christmas "spectacular" — most likely in London.

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