Formed in early 1998 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 nonviolence and opposed the amendment in December 1999 of Articles 2 and 3 of the Irish Constitution, which laid claim to Northern Ireland. Despite internal rifts and calls by some jailed members—including the group’s founder Michael “Mickey” McKevitt—for a cease-fire and the group’s disbandment, the group pledged additional violence in October 2002 and continued to conduct attacks.
Bombings, assassinations, and robberies. Many Real IRA members are former Provisional IRA members who left that organization following the Provisional IRA cease-fire and bring to RIRA a wealth of experience in terrorist tactics and bombmaking. Targets have included civilians (most notoriously in the Omagh bombing in August 1998), the British military, the police in Northern Ireland, and Northern Ireland Protestant communities. Since October 1999, RIRA has carried out more than 80 terrorist attacks. RIRA’s most recent fatal attack in Derry in 2002 killed a construction worker. In June 2003 raids, Irish national police interdicted two large-scale vehicle-born improvised explosive devices, each weighing more than 1,000 lbs. Five RIRA members and a senior Continuity Irish Republican Army member (CIRA) also were arrested during the raids.
100 to 200 activists plus possible limited support from IRA hardliners dissatisfied with the IRA cease-fire and other republican sympathizers. Approximately 40 RIRA members are in Irish jails.
Location/Area of Operation
Northern Ireland, Irish Republic, Great Britain.
Suspected of receiving funds from sympathizers in the United States and of attempting to buy weapons from US gun dealers. RIRA also is reported to have purchased sophisticated weapons from the Balkans. In May 2002, three Irish nationals associated with RIRA pleaded guilty to charges of conspiracy to cause an explosion and trying to obtain weapons following their extradition from Slovenia to the United Kingdom.