The Real IRA - A Guide to the Real Irish Republican Army

The Real IRA Has Opposed Non-Violent Solutions

Coroners Inquest in Northern Ireland Bombing
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The Real IRA was formed in 1997 when the Provisional IRA entered into negotiations for a ceasefire with Northern Ireland unionists. Two members of the PIRA Executive, Michael McKevitt and a fellow Executive member and common law wife Bernadette Sands-McKevitt, are the core of the new group.

Real IRA Principles 

The Real IRA rejected the principle of non-violent resolution that formed the basis of the ceasefire negotiations. This principle has been stated in the six Mitchell principles and the Belfast Agreement, which would be signed in 1998. Real IRA members also objected to the division of Ireland into a southern independent Republic and Northern Ireland. They wanted an undivided Irish republic with no compromise with Unionists – those who wanted to join in a union with the United Kingdom. 

A Violent Approach 

The Real IRA used terrorist tactics on a regular basis to hit economic targets as well as specific symbolic human targets. Improvised explosive devices and car bombs were typical weapons.

The Real IRA was responsible for the Omagh bombing on August 15, 1998. The attack in the center of the Northern Irish town killed 29 people and wounded between 200 and 300 others. Reports of injuries vary. The devastating attack prompted severe hostility toward RIRA, even from Sinn Fein leaders Martin McGuinness and Gerry Adams. McKevitt was convicted for "directing terrorism" in 2003 for his participation in the attack. Other members were arrested in France and Ireland in 2003.

The group also involved itself in hunt-and-kill missions aimed at drug dealers and organized crime. 

The Real IRA in the Millennium 

Although the Real IRA fractured considerably with the passage of time, MI5 – the UK's intelligence agency – called it the UK's primary threat in July 2008 based on surveillance evidence. MI5 estimated that the group had about 80 members as of July 2008, all willing to conduct bombings or other attacks.

Then, in 2012, the splintering RIRA merged with other terrorist groups with the goal of forming what the new group called "a unified structure under a single leadership." The move is said to have been prompted by McGuinness shaking hands with Queen Elizabeth. In keeping with RIRA's vigilante efforts against drug dealers, one of these groups was Radical Action Against Drugs or RAAD. 

Both RIRA and the media have referred to the group as the "New IRA" since this joining of forces. The New IRA has said that it intends to target British forces, police and the Ulster Bank headquarters. The Irish Times called it "the deadliest of the dissident republican groupings" in 2016, and it's been active in recent years. The group detonated a bomb in front of the home of a Londonderry, England police officer's home in February 2016. Another police officer was attacked in January 2017, and the New IRA is reportedly behind a series of shootings in Belfast, including that of a 16-year-old boy.