Country Report on Terrorism 2018 - Chapter 5 - Real Irish Republican Army

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 FTO 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. 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 has continued to conduct attacks.

Activities: Many RIRA members are former Provisional Irish Republican Army members who left the organization after the group renewed its cease-fire in 1997. These members brought 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 likely was responsible for the majority of the attacks that occurred after the Irish Republican Army (IRA) was decommissioned in Northern Ireland.

In May 2015, Irish police carried out 20 searches aimed at known dissident republicans across Ireland. Six individuals with links to the RIRA and the Continuity Irish Republican Army (CIRA) were arrested after police discovered explosive devices. 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 a cache of explosives they found in Dublin in April 2016.

In January 2017, RIRA gunmen fired at police officers in north Belfast, injuring one officer. RIRA did not publicly claim responsibility for any attacks in 2018.

Strength: The Irish government reports that the RIRA has roughly 100 active members. The organization may receive limited support from IRA hardliners and sympathizers who are dissatisfied with the IRA’s cease-fire and with Sinn Fein’s involvement in the peace process.

Location/Area of Operation: The group operates in 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.