US government report on the Real IRA (2008)

In 2001 the US government classified the Real IRA as a foreign terrorist organisation. In April 2008 the US State Department published the following summary of the Real IRA:

Like the Continuity IRA, RIRA did not participate in the September weapons decommissioning. RIRA was formed in 1997 as the clandestine armed wing of the 32 County Sovereignty Movement, a “political pressure group” dedicated to removing British forces from Northern Ireland and unifying Ireland. RIRA also seeks to disrupt the Northern Ireland peace process. The 32 County Sovereignty Movement opposed Sinn Fein’s adoption in September 1997 of the Mitchell principles of democracy and non-violence; it also opposed the amendment in December 1999 of Articles Two and Three of the Irish Constitution that laid claim to Northern Ireland. Despite internal rifts and calls by some jailed members, including the group’s founder Michael ‘Mickey’ McKevitt, for a ceasefire and disbandment, RIRA has pledged additional violence and continues to conduct attacks.

Many RIRA members are former Provisional Irish Republican Army members who left that organisation after the Provisional IRA renewed its ceasefire in 1997. These members brought a wealth of experience in terrorist tactics and bomb-making to RIRA. Targets have included civilians (most notoriously in the Omagh bombing in August 1998), British security forces, police in Northern Ireland and local Protestant communities. RIRA’s most recent fatal attack was in August 2002 at a London army base, killing a construction worker. The organisation wants to improve its intelligence-gathering ability, engineering capacity and access to weaponry; it also trains members in the use of guns and explosives. RIRA continues to attract new members and its senior members are committed to launching attacks on security forces. Five people were convicted of membership in RIRA in 2005.

The number of activists may have fallen to less than 100. The organisation may receive limited support from IRA hardliners and Republican sympathisers dissatisfied with the IRA’s continuing ceasefire and with Sinn Fein’s involvement in the peace process. Approximately 40 RIRA members are in Irish jails.

Location and Area of Operation
Northern Ireland, Great Britain and the Irish Republic.

External Aid
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.”