Real IRA (RIRA)
The Real Irish Republican Army (Real IRA, or RIRA), also known as the the True IRA, formed in early 1998 as a clandestine armed wing of the 32-County Sovereignty Movement, a "political pressure group" dedicated to removing British forces from Northern Ireland and unifying Ireland. The 32-County Sovereignty Movement opposed Sinn Fein's adoption in September, 1997, of the Mitchell principles of democracy and nonviolence and opposed the amendment in December 1999 of Articles 2 and 3 of the Irish Constitution, which laid claim to Northern Ireland. Michael "Mickey" McKevitt, who left the IRA to protest its cease-fire, leads the group; Bernadette Sands-McKevitt, his wife, is a founder-member of the 32-County Sovereignty Movement, the political wing of the RIRA.
Organization activities. The Real IRA has claimed to have committed or is believed to be responsible for a number of bombings, assassinations, and robberies. Many Real IRA members are former Irish Republican Army (IRA) members who left that organization following the IRA cease-fire and who bring to RIRA a wealth of experience in terrorist tactics and bomb construction. RIRA targets include British military and police in Northern Ireland and Northern Ireland Protestant communities. RIRA is linked to and understood to be responsible for the car bomb attack in Omagh, Northern Ireland, on August 15, 1998, that killed 29 and injured 220 persons. The group began to observe a cease-fire following Omagh but in 2000 and 2001 resumed attacks in Northern Ireland and on the UK mainland against targets such as MI6 headquarters and the BBC.
RIRA's size is estimated at 100 to 200 activists plus possible limited support from IRA hardliners dissatisfied with the IRA cease-fire and other republican sympathizers. British and Irish authorities arrested at least 40 members in the spring and summer of 2001, including leader McKevitt, who is currently in prison in the Irish Republic awaiting trial for being a member of a terrorist organization and directing terrorist attacks.
Suspected of receiving funds from sympathizers in the United States and of attempting to buy weapons from U.S. gun dealers, RIRA also is reported to have purchased sophisticated weapons from the Balkans. Three Irish nationals associated with RIRA were extradited from Slovenia to the UK and are awaiting trial on weapons procurement charges.
As of April 2003, the U.S. Department of State no longer listed the IRA as a foreign terrorist organization, but did list the Real IRA. The RIRA operates in Northern Ireland, Irish Republic, and Great Britain.
█ FURTHER READING:
Central Intelligence Agency. World Factbook, 2002. < http://www.cia.gov/cia/publications/factbook/ > (April 16, 2003).
Taylor, Francis X. U.S. Department of State. Patterns of Global Terrorism 2001. Annual Report: On the Record Briefing. May 21, 2002. < http://www.state.gov/s/ct/rls/rm/10367.htm > (April 17, 2003).
U.S. Department of State. Annual reports. < http://www.state.gov/www/global/terrorism/annual_reports.html > (April 16, 2003).