Country Report on Terrorism 2016 - Chapter 6 - Real IRA

aka RIRA; Real Irish Republican Army; 32 County Sovereignty Committee; 32 County Sovereignty Movement; Irish Republican Prisoners Welfare Association; Real Oglaigh Na hEireann

Description: The Real Irish Republican Army (RIRA) was designated as a Foreign Terrorist Organization on May 16, 2001. The group 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. The RIRA has historically sought to disrupt the Northern Ireland peace process and did not participate in the September 2005 weapons decommissioning. In September 1997, the 32 County Sovereignty Movement opposed Sinn Fein’s adoption of the Mitchell principles of democracy and non-violence. Despite internal rifts and calls by some jailed members, including the group’s founder Michael “Mickey” McKevitt, for a cease-fire and disbandment, the RIRA has pledged additional violence and continues to conduct attacks.

Activities: Many RIRA members are former Provisional Irish Republican Army members who left the organization after that group renewed its ceasefire in 1997. These members brought an extensive experience in terrorist tactics and bomb-making to the group. Targets have included civilians (the most notorious example is the Omagh bombing in August 1998), British security forces, and police officers in Northern Ireland. The Independent Monitoring Commission, which oversees the peace process, assessed that RIRA members were likely responsible for the majority of the shootings and assaults that occurred post-Irish Republican Army (IRA)-decommissioning in Northern Ireland.

In May 2015, Irish police carried out 20 searches aimed at known dissident republicans across Ireland. Six individuals with links to RIRA and Continuity Irish Republican Army (CIRA) were arrested after police discovered explosive devices and components. In spring 2016, the RIRA bombed the van of an Irish prison officer in East Belfast; the officer died from complications following the attack. Dublin police also linked the RIRA to an explosives cache they found in Dublin in April.

Strength: According to the Irish government, the RIRA has approximately 100 active members. The organization may receive limited support from IRA hardliners and Republican sympathizers who are dissatisfied with the IRA’s continuing ceasefire and with Sinn Fein’s involvement in the peace process.

Location/Area of Operation: Great Britain including Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland

Funding and External Aid: The RIRA is suspected of receiving funds from sympathizers in the United States and of attempting to buy weapons from U.S. gun dealers. The RIRA reportedly purchased sophisticated weapons from the Balkans and occasionally collaborated with the CIRA.