Category: Archive

State department to target ‘Real IRA’

February 16, 2011

By Staff Reporter

By Susan Falvella-Garraty

WASHINGTON, D.C. — On the eve of President Clinton’s Irish visit, the federal government is indicating its intent this week to clamp down on support in the U.S. for the Real IRA, the group behind the Omagh bombing.

The group is to be placed on the State Department’s "terrorist watch list," the Echo has learned.

In an exclusive interview with the Echo, a senior Clinton administration official said the U.S. is utilizing the FBI among others to "actively investigate" the radical republican organization responsible for the Omagh carnage.

The bombing is also expected to change much of the focus of next week’s visit to Ireland by president and Mrs. Clinton.

Both the President and First Lady have been concentrating on the trip even as their own private lives have hit rough waters.

Sign up to The Irish Echo Newsletter

A confidante of Mrs. Clinton said the First Lady has seen her work on Ireland as a sort of refuge from the upheaval.

"Even as she has had to deal with her own problems, she has realized how the loss families suffered in the bombing — with multiple losses in single families — merits its own priority," the friend said.

It is understood that the First Lady worked on her speech to a Belfast women’s conference even as President Clinton went on national television last week to apologize to the nation for his relationship with Monica Lewinsky.

For his part, the president has "stayed focussed" on his commitment to Ireland.

Top officials in the White House recoil at the notion that Ireland is a mere "distraction" from the president’s current difficulties.

"Life in the White House is very compartmentalized," the senior administration official explained. "And when it comes to foreign policy the world still works even if there’s craziness all around you."

The official said while a possible decision to meet with some of the victim families of the Omagh tragedy was high on the priority list, what kind of addition might be added to the president’s itinerary is still unclear.

"We will do something, that’s for sure, because we all understand the huge significance of the event," the official stated.

In addition, officials said one of the most significant meetings planned for President Clinton comes in the early hours of the visit when the President arrives in Belfast from Moscow.

"The president’s meeting with David Trimble and Seamus Mallon, he feels, is very important because he wants to help get the Assembly off to the right start — especially in light of Omagh," said the official.

White House officials, meanwhile, are claiming some credit for Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams’s unambiguous condemnation of the Omagh car bombing.

"There were many phone calls immediately after the bombing," said an official.

Officials view the White House actions in the bomb’s aftermath as having possibly swayed certain loyalist organizations away from possible retaliation while fostering the watershed condemnation from Sinn Féin.

White House officials believe that their involvement will be needed in the days and months ahead, and the president will impart his commitment to offer personal assistance for as long as is possible.

This could well be expressed during the Irish visit with President Clinton making at least one or two stops where he will work the crowd.

"The president wants to hear firsthand from the people what Omagh means to them," said a White House official.

"It is certainly ironic, and of course not planned, that the people of Northern Ireland and our own people experienced horrible acts of terrorism at the same time," said the official.

Meanwhile, the Irish American Unity Conference said that despite his recent problems, President Clinton still deserved support from Irish Americans.

"Notwithstanding the recent atrocity in Omagh, the direct involvement of President Clinton in Anglo-Irish affairs has resulted in astonishing advances towards a peaceful settlement in Northern Ireland, the IAUC said in a statement which also stressed that it was important that Clinton’s "human failures" did not detract from his accomplishments.

€ GOP Rep. Peter King has been chosen by Speaker Newt Gingrich to accompany Clinton on the Irish visit. King said he was proud to have been chosen. Also asked to travel has been the GOP’s Vito Fossella. The New York rep. said he hoped to bring "a fresh perspective" to the peace process.

Other Articles You Might Like

Sign up to our Daily Newsletter

Click to access the login or register cheese