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Real IRA
Real Irish Republican Army
New Irish Republican Army (NIRA)
32 County Sovereignty Committee
32 County Sovereignty Movement
Irish Republican Prisoners Welfare Association
Real Oglaigh Na Heireann
glaigh na hireann
(Volunteers of Ireland)


The New Irish Republican Army (NIRA), also known as the Real IRA, is a radical terrorist group that split from the Provisional IRA. It is one of two remaining groups sworn to continue the violence against the British in Northern Ireland. The policies of Sinn fein under the leadership Gerry Adams from 1994 to 1998 led to a split in the Provisional Irish Republican Army during the fall of 1997, with one faction accepting the new Good Friday Agreement, and the New or Real IRA continuing armed resistance to British partition. This movement dedicated to removing British forces from Northern Ireland and unifying Ireland is organized into small, tightly knit cells. Following the split from the Provos, it has begun working with the Continuity Irish Republican Army (CIRA) and the Irish National Liberation Army (INLA).

Like the Continuity IRA, the Real IRA (RIRA) did not participate in the September 2005 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 September 1997 adoption of the Mitchell principles of democracy and non-violence; it also opposed the amendment in December 1999 of Articles 2 and 3 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 cease-fire and disbandment, RIRA pledged additional violence and continued to conduct attacks.


Bombings, assassinations, kidnappings, extortion, and robberies. Before its 1994 cease-fire, targets included senior British Government officials, British military and police in Northern Ireland, and Northern Irish Loyalist paramilitary groups. Since breaking its cease-fire in February 1996, IRA's operations have included bombing campaigns against train and subway stations and shoppping areas on mainland Britain, British military and Royal Ulster Constabulary targets in Northern Ireland, and a British military facility on the European Continent.

Many RIRA members are former Provisional Irish Republican Army members who left that organization after it renewed its cease-fire 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 organization seeks 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.

The single worst terrorist incident in Northern Ireland's history was carried out in August 1998 in Omagh, where a car bomb killed 29 and wounded 220. The RIRA or CIRA were jointly responsible for the Omagh bombing, and neither ever overcame the public revulsion which this engendered. After this bombing, the Real IRA called a cease-fire.

Since October 1999, RIRA has carried out more than 80 terrorist attacks. RIRA's most recent fatal attack was in August 2002 at a Londonderry Army Base that 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 pounds. Five RIRA members were arrested during the raids.

In August 2003 Michael McKevitt, leader of the Real IRA, was sentenced to 20 years in prison. The verdict had been announced in Dublin's jury-less Special Criminal Court, where past generations of Irish Nationalists had been convicted by the British.

In 2004, RIRA conducted several postal bomb attacks and made threats against prison officers, people involved in the new policing arrangements, and senior politicians. RIRA also planted incendiary devices in Belfast shopping areas and conducted a serious shooting attack against a Police Service of Northern Ireland station in September.

From 2006 to November 2007, terrorist activity in the form of successful and attempted attacks by RIRA slightly decreased. Notably, between August and November 2006, throughout Northern Ireland, RIRA targeted B&Q home-supply stores and other retail businesses in successful and attempted firebombings, although a handful of these attacks were also claimed by the Continuity Irish Republican Army (CIRA). In November 2007, RIRA claimed two armed attacks that wounded two Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) officers.

On Saturday 07 March 2009, two British soldiers were shot and killed at the gates of Massereene Army base in County Antrim. Hours later, the republican splinter group "the Real IRA" claimed responsibility. It is the deadliest attack in Northern Ireland in a decade. Politicians from all stripes have been unified in their condemnation of the killings. Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams called it an attack on the peace process. He added it was wrong and counter- productive, and those responsible have no support from the community.


Several hundred, plus several thousand sympathizers.

Location/Area of Operation

Northern Ireland, Irish Republic, Great Britain, and Europe.

External Aid

Has received aid from a variety of groups and countries and considerable training and arms from Libya and, at one time, the PLO. Also is suspected of receiving funds and arms from sympathizers in the United States. Similarities in operations suggest links to the ETA.

The RIRA raise much of their money by smuggling diesel and cigarettes across the border. Three suspected RIRA members that engaged in cigarette smuggling were arrested in Spain in 2006. Counter to the Provisional IRA's official anti-drug position, individual members of the Provisional IRA, the Continuity IRA, and the Real IRA are known to engage in drug smuggling/dealing activities.

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